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Advancing General Strain Theory: Three Empirical Studies

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The main premise of general strain theory (GST) is that strains and stressors increase negative emotions, such as anger and depression, which ultimately influence coping—criminal and otherwise (Agnew, 1992). Though

The main premise of general strain theory (GST) is that strains and stressors increase negative emotions, such as anger and depression, which ultimately influence coping—criminal and otherwise (Agnew, 1992). Though there is a lot of research in support of the core arguments of GST, gaps in the knowledge base remain. For example, most researchers have focused on particular types of strains, overlooking nontraditional forms. And though the negative impact of deviant peers on delinquency is well documented, the influence of such peers in terms of coping with negative emotionality is not well understood. This dissertation investigates the relationship between unconventional strains—teenage pregnancy and low social support—on negative outcomes. In addition, this project also examines friendship networks to see whether peer victimization increases personal involvement in violent offending. Additionally, the impact of deviant peers within the GST framework is also tested.

This dissertation uses existing data from Waves I (1994-1995) and II (1996) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The Add Health is a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of over 20,000 American adolescents who were in grades 7 through 12 during the 1994-1995 school year. Data were drawn from two sources—the in-home interview data and the social network data. Multivariate regression models are used to examine the effects of strain on a number of outcomes of theoretical interest.

The findings indicate that teenage pregnancy, peer victimization, and low social support were all associated with depressive symptoms and deviant coping. More specifically, the results from study one showed that adolescents who had experienced pregnancy were more likely to experience depressive symptoms and engage in substance use behaviors. Depression failed to mediate the relationship between pregnancy and substance use. Teenage pregnancy, depression, and deviant peers interact to amplify alcohol-related problems and marijuana use. In study two the findings revealed that peer victimization was positively related to depression and violent offending. Furthermore, the relationship between peer victimization was partially mediated by depression. Lastly, the findings from study three showed that low social support was associated with depression and delinquency. Consistent with GST, the relationship between low social support and delinquency was fully mediated by depression. Implications for practice and directions future research are discussed.

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  • 2018

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Adolescent motherhood, depression, and delinquency

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Although recent studies have report that many stressors and strains (i.e., financial, educational and psychological) arise from being an adolescent mother, whether adolescent motherhood influences delinquency remains an unanswered empirical

Although recent studies have report that many stressors and strains (i.e., financial, educational and psychological) arise from being an adolescent mother, whether adolescent motherhood influences delinquency remains an unanswered empirical question. Using data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health), the current study examines the relationship between motherhood, depression, and delinquency (N = 676). The sample is comprised of solely females between ages 13 and 21-years-old. The female subjects were categorized either as an adolescent mothers, non-mother adolescents, or adult mothers. This study tests the following hypotheses: (1) adolescent mothers are prone to involvement in delinquent behavior; and, (2) adolescent mothers who experience depression are at greater risk of delinquent behavior. The results indicate that there is a decrease in delinquency among adolescent mothers who do not experience depression. However, there is an increase in delinquency among adolescent mothers who experience depression.

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Date Created
  • 2014