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“Role Magnets”? An Empirical Investigation of Popularity Trajectories for Life-Course Persistent Individuals During Adolescence

Abstract

Recent scholarship has focused on the role of social status in peer groups to explain the fact that delinquency is disproportionately committed during adolescence. Yet, the precise mechanism linking adolescence, social status, and antisocial behavior is not well understood. Dual-taxonomy postulates a testable mechanism that links the sudden increase in risky behavior among adolescents to the social magnetism of a small group of persistently antisocial individuals, referred to here as the “role magnet” hypothesis. Using semi-parametric group-based trajectory modeling and growth-curve modeling, this study provides the first test of this hypothesis by examining physical violence and popularity trajectories for 1,845 male respondents age 11–32 from a nationally representative sample (54 % non-Hispanic White; 21 % non-Hispanic African American; 17 % Hispanic; 8 % Asian). Individuals assigned to a “chronic violence” trajectory group showed consistently lower average levels of popularity from 11 to 19. But, these same individuals experienced increases in popularity during early adolescence and subsequent declines in late adolescence. These findings are linked to current research examining social status as a mechanism generating antisocial behavior during adolescence and the consequences of delayed entry into adult roles.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank J. C. Barnes, Carter Rees, Andrea Borrego, Brooks Louton, and Blaine Robbins for comments on earlier drafts. This research uses data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

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All parts of this article were completed by JY.

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Correspondence to Jacob T. N. Young.

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Young, J.T.N. “Role Magnets”? An Empirical Investigation of Popularity Trajectories for Life-Course Persistent Individuals During Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence 43, 104–115 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9946-0

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Keywords

  • Social networks
  • Popularity
  • Dual-taxonomy
  • Theory testing
  • Semi-parametric group-based modeling
  • Growth curve modeling