Parent and Peer Pathways to Adolescent Delinquency: Variations by Ethnicity and Neighborhood Context

Arielle R. Deutsch, Lisa J. Crockett, Jennifer M. Wolff, Stephen T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Effects of ethnicity and neighborhood quality often are confounded in research on adolescent delinquent behavior. This study examined the pathways to delinquency among 2,277 African American and 5,973 European American youth residing in high-risk and low-risk neighborhoods. Using data from a national study of youth, a meditational model was tested in which parenting practices (parental control and maternal support) were hypothesized to influence adolescents' participation in delinquent behavior through their affiliation with deviant peers. The relationships of family and neighborhood risk to parenting practices and deviant peer affiliation were also examined. Results of multi-group structural equation models provided support for the core meditational model in both ethnic groups, as well as evidence of a direct effect of maternal support on delinquency. When a similar model was tested within each ethnic group to compare youths residing in high-risk and low-risk neighborhoods, few neighborhood differences were found. The results indicate that, for both African American and European American youth, low parental control influences delinquency indirectly through its effect on deviant peer affiliation, whereas maternal support has both direct and indirect effects. However, the contextual factors influencing parenting practices and deviant peer affiliation appear to vary somewhat across ethnic groups. Overall the present study highlights the need to look at the joint influence of neighborhood context and ethnicity on adolescent problem behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1078-1094
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Delinquency
  • Deviant peers
  • Ethnicity
  • Neighborhood context
  • Parenting practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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