Prior to this study, there had been little research on whether delinquency and academic achievement were associated reciprocally. The authors. This paper reviews key literature from several disciplinary and theoretical perspectives in exploring the relationship between various forms of academic failure in. examine the relationship between academic performance and In one interpretation, delinquency is an adaptation to school failure.
The direction of the causal link between education and juvenile delinquency is fundamentally complex.
Cause or Effect: The Relationship Between Academic Achievement and Delinquency in America
Early aggressive behavior may lead to difficulties in the classroom. These, in turn, might result in delinquency. Equally, delinquency could be another manifestation of whatever characteristics got the child into trouble with school authorities in the first place. Some studies have shown reductions in delinquent behavior when a teenager drops out of school. Others have shown increasing rates of delinquency following school dropout.
In addition, many studies have shown that family and child characteristics predict both problems in school and an increased likelihood of delinquent behavior. Despite the ongoing discussion of the direction of causality, the evidence is clear that poor school performance, truancy, and leaving school at a young age are connected to juvenile delinquency Bachman et al. Several factors linked to delinquency, aggression, and violence have been identified. For example, research has found that verbal and reading deficits are linked to victimization both inside and outside Page 14 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Delinquent peer associations may also be a consequence of school failure when a student comes to reject academic achievement and prosocial behavior as legitimate goals and values.
Rolf Loeber, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, cautioned that the relationship between delinquency and school performance should not be oversimplified.
It may be that progression from delinquent behavior to school failure is contingent on other factors, since not every offending juvenile experiences school failure and not every failing student commits offenses. In addition, not every act of delinquency affects school performance in the same way. The seriousness of delinquent behavior may determine whether and to what extent school performance suffers.
It appears that poor school performance is a more severe problem among serious violent delinquents. In a review of the literature on the predictors of youth violence, Hawkins and his colleagues concluded that serious and violent delinquents had more school-related problems e.
Inversely, studies have found that students who do not perform well academically are more likely to be delinquent. The Cambridge Study on Delinquent Development and the Pittsburgh Youth Study have both found that low school achievement predicts adolescent delinquency Maguin and Loeber, In a meta-analysis of studies that examined the relationship between academic performance and delinquency and interventions designed to improve school achievement and reduce offending, Maguin and Loeber found that poor school performance was related to the frequency of delinquent offending, the seriousness of offenses, and persistence in delinquency offending.
There are, however, methodological issues that limit study findings. Page 15 Share Cite Suggested Citation: While time limitations did not allow for an exhaustive review of the relevant research at the workshop, participants were able to discuss the important role that peers play in the relationship between delinquency and poor school performance. That peers exercise influence on the development of delinquent behavior is a common perception among researchers. Workshop participants discussed three issues related to the effects of peers on delinquency: Guided counseling programs, for example, have been mandated in some states.
These programs are often administered to students in groups. As part of a study designed to measure and code interactions among teenage boys assembled to discuss problems in their relationships with parents and peers, Dishion and his colleagues found that interactions among the boys were influenced by the content of their conversations.
Conversation was classified into two categories: Researchers observed that the nonverbal reactions to rule-breaking and norm-accepting topics and activities communicated either positive or negative reinforcement for the associated behavior Dishion et al.
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Among nondelinquent dyads, normative talk led to positive reinforcement in the form of laughter. Alternatively, in dyads in which the members had some experience with delinquency, normative talk failed to elicit a positive response; only rule-breaking talk received positive feedback.
The researchers concluded from this study that delinquent peer groups are organized around rule-breaking talk Dishion et al.
These findings have been replicated among delinquent and nondelin- Page 16 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Although adolescent girls differed from adolescent boys in terms of the topics they discussed and the rules they broke, the deviancy training process was similar. At the workshop, Dishion argued that these findings point toward needed changes in school policy. If it is the case that deviant peers exert a strong influence on the development of delinquent behavior, one way to discourage this is to reintegrate at-risk children and adolescents into the educational mainstream.
By doing this, children who would traditionally be grouped together because of problem behavior or school failure would benefit from the prosocial influence of peers who exhibit more normative conduct. Research findings in this area are contested, however, and mechanisms through which peer rejection leads to delinquency are not at all clear.
Aggression has been suggested to explain the connection between peer rejection and delinquency. Participants noted that it is equally reasonable that aggression leads to peer rejection as it is that peer rejection leads to aggression. While the research proposes a link between peer rejection and aggression see Coie et al. On closer inspection of this body of research, it appears that only children who are both aggressive and victimized are rejected by their peers.
In other words, it may not be aggression that leads to peer rejection. On the contrary, by adolescence many aggressive children are admired, and in some settings delinquents are popular. Furthermore, not all peer-rejected adolescents perceive themselves as being rejected. These observations undermine support for the assertion that peer rejection is causally related to delinquency and aggression Cairns and Cairns, ; Graham and Juvonen, Peer rejection can occur in many different contexts, some amenable to school intervention, others not.
Workshop participants noted that a great deal of peer rejection occurs in classrooms—a context in which teachers have considerable influence.
Some teachers do a good job of organizing the classroom environment so that children do not feel rejected. Even though the authors only find limited support for their proposed model, they note that it backs the notion that better academic achievement decreases delinquency. Prior to this study, there had been little research on whether delinquency and academic achievement were associated reciprocally. Few studies have looked at this mutual relationship before.
The authors note that stronger school attachments, such as improved teacher-student interactions and participation in school-sponsored activities, not only decrease the likelihood of delinquency, but also lead to greater commitment to school-based goals i. There are many ways for students to invest in their futures to decrease the likelihood of delinquency, but higher grades strengthen the perceived attachments to schools most notably and thus act as the key tether between students and school.
The results, using regression analysis, provide evidence that academic achievement is associated with less delinquent behavior over time, as well as with higher school attainment. Ultimately, they conclude that students who perform better are more likely to finish school than those who have lower grades. They also note that males are more likely to be delinquent than females, but also tend to have a higher school attachment.
Through the testing of the model and analysis, there is only partial support for interactional theory as the effects of delinquency are limited to an attenuating effect on subsequent school attachment — delinquency does not directly influence academic achievement.
Although the authors are able to increase the overall understanding of the associations among delinquent behaviors, academic achievement and attachment to school, they recommend that future work is needed on addressing more detailed measures of delinquency and academics. It is evident that the link between the two is not happenstance. Furthermore, the authors do not separate violent and non-violent forms of delinquency.