Criminologists’ understanding of peer influences has been greatly advanced by social network methods; however, relatively scant attention has been paid to improving measurement. In particular, research has continued to measure peer influence by averaging the level of delinquency within a peer network, thereby neglecting the role of behavioral heterogeneity. The present study seeks to advance theory and research into peer influences on delinquency by explicitly modeling behavioral heterogeneity in peer networks measured as the variance. Drawing on social learning and opportunity theories, we argue that behavioral heterogeneity should attenuate the effect of average peer delinquency on individual offending. Models using social network data from the Add Health were estimated predicting involvement in two delinquent substance-use acts (cigarette smoking and getting drunk) as a function of peer influences. The results are consistent with our hypothesis, indicating that behavioral heterogeneity matters. Findings suggest that future research employing network models could incorporate peer behavioral heterogeneity to get a more accurate portrait of the processes of peer influence.
- delinquent peers
- social networks
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine