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Distrust Moderates the Effect of Deviant Peer Affiliation on Increased Externalizing in Adolescents


Deviant peer affiliation predicts externalizing behavior in adolescence, but no research explores how having negative or suspicious expectations of others (i.e., distrust) may evoke or buffer against the relationship between deviant peer affiliation and externalizing behavior. The current study used data across two timepoints to investigate the impact of deviant peer affiliation and distrust on externalizing behavior 3 years later and whether race/ethnicity moderated this relationship. The sample consisted of 611 adolescents from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods Study (48% male; Mage = 15.5 years, SD = 1.6; 17% White; 34% Black; 49% Hispanic). Higher levels of distrust buffered against the influence of deviant peer affiliation on externalizing behaviors. Further, this buffering was evident in Black compared to White adolescents. Understanding externalizing behavior warrants considering the intersection between the person and their environment.

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  1. In order to determine whether or not a multilevel model was appropriate for our analyses, we ran an unconditional mean model and calculated the intraclass correlation. The intraclass correlation was 0.006, indicating that 0.6 percent of the variation in externalizing was associated with neighborhood membership. Given that only 0.6 percent of variation in externalizing was accounted for by neighborhood membership, a multilevel model was not utilized. However, all results were replicated using a multilevel model. Additionally, for all models, all results remained the same if age at wave 1 was used in models as a covariate instead of age at wave 2.


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This study utilizes data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, which was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, the Harris Foundation, and the Turner Foundation. The authors extend thanks to all members of the PHDCN research team, especially to the principal investigator, Dr. Felton J. Earls, and the scientific directors: Dr. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Dr. Stephen Raudenbush, and Dr. Robert Sampson. The authors also are appreciative of all the participants and their families who made this research possible.

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Authors and Affiliations



S.A.C. conceived of the study, analyzed and interpreted the data, and drafted and finalized the manuscript; A.B.S. participated in the conception of the study and helped to draft, edit, and finalize the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), which were used under license for the current study, and so are not available for distribution by authors. However, data are publicly accessible from the NAJCD and require a Restricted Data Use Agreement and IRB approval.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shou-An A. Chang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

This study involved secondary data analysis and was approved by the Yale Human Investigation Committee.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from parent or guardian of the subject prior to each interview in the longitudinal cohort study. Prior to each assessment, youth provided assent. The PHDCN study procedures were approved by 2 institutional review boards at Harvard University.

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Chang, SA.A., Baskin-Sommers, A. Distrust Moderates the Effect of Deviant Peer Affiliation on Increased Externalizing in Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence 51, 1829–1840 (2022).

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  • Distrust
  • Deviant peer affiliation
  • Externalizing
  • Race/ethnicity