Delinquency as a consequence of misperception

Overestimation of friends' delinquent behavior and mechanisms of social influence

Jacob Young, Frank M. Weerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines how actors' perceptions of other people's behavior may be exaggerated and how this inaccuracy may influence behavior. More specifically, we apply these issues to improve our understanding of the correlation between delinquency of friends and individual delinquency. This relationship is one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences. However, research has not distinguished misperceptions of friends' behavior from actual behavior of friends, leaving two empirical questions unanswered. First, why do youth overestimate their friends' level of delinquency? Second, does overestimation of friends' delinquency influence one's own delinquency? We examine these questions using data from two waves of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) School Project. These data include self-reports by school friends of their own delinquent behavior, as well as respondents' estimates of their friends' behavior, making them uniquely equipped to calculate how much respondents exaggerate the behavior of their school friends and to investigate the determinants and consequences of this overestimation. Findings indicate that youth who engage in delinquency, have attitudes supporting delinquency, and experience peer pressure are more likely to exaggerate the prevalence of delinquency in their friendship network. Also, overestimating friends' delinquency leads to more delinquency in a subsequent wave, net of actual delinquency of friends and individual and situational characteristics. Overestimating friends' delinquency has the strongest effect on individuals who value social approval, are unpopular in their school, and experience peer pressure from their friends. We conclude by discussing avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-356
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Problems
Volume60
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Fingerprint

delinquency
school
law enforcement
friendship
experience
Netherlands
social science
offense
determinants

Keywords

  • Cognitive bias
  • Delinquency
  • Measurement
  • Peers
  • Social influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Delinquency as a consequence of misperception : Overestimation of friends' delinquent behavior and mechanisms of social influence. / Young, Jacob; Weerman, Frank M.

In: Social Problems, Vol. 60, No. 3, 08.2013, p. 334-356.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{5ed88afbbf2742fda4c6014e38b77d6b,
title = "Delinquency as a consequence of misperception: Overestimation of friends' delinquent behavior and mechanisms of social influence",
abstract = "This article examines how actors' perceptions of other people's behavior may be exaggerated and how this inaccuracy may influence behavior. More specifically, we apply these issues to improve our understanding of the correlation between delinquency of friends and individual delinquency. This relationship is one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences. However, research has not distinguished misperceptions of friends' behavior from actual behavior of friends, leaving two empirical questions unanswered. First, why do youth overestimate their friends' level of delinquency? Second, does overestimation of friends' delinquency influence one's own delinquency? We examine these questions using data from two waves of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) School Project. These data include self-reports by school friends of their own delinquent behavior, as well as respondents' estimates of their friends' behavior, making them uniquely equipped to calculate how much respondents exaggerate the behavior of their school friends and to investigate the determinants and consequences of this overestimation. Findings indicate that youth who engage in delinquency, have attitudes supporting delinquency, and experience peer pressure are more likely to exaggerate the prevalence of delinquency in their friendship network. Also, overestimating friends' delinquency leads to more delinquency in a subsequent wave, net of actual delinquency of friends and individual and situational characteristics. Overestimating friends' delinquency has the strongest effect on individuals who value social approval, are unpopular in their school, and experience peer pressure from their friends. We conclude by discussing avenues for future research.",
keywords = "Cognitive bias, Delinquency, Measurement, Peers, Social influence",
author = "Jacob Young and Weerman, {Frank M.}",
year = "2013",
month = "8",
doi = "10.1525/sp.2013.60.3.334",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "60",
pages = "334--356",
journal = "Social Problems",
issn = "0037-7791",
publisher = "University of California Press",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Delinquency as a consequence of misperception

T2 - Overestimation of friends' delinquent behavior and mechanisms of social influence

AU - Young, Jacob

AU - Weerman, Frank M.

PY - 2013/8

Y1 - 2013/8

N2 - This article examines how actors' perceptions of other people's behavior may be exaggerated and how this inaccuracy may influence behavior. More specifically, we apply these issues to improve our understanding of the correlation between delinquency of friends and individual delinquency. This relationship is one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences. However, research has not distinguished misperceptions of friends' behavior from actual behavior of friends, leaving two empirical questions unanswered. First, why do youth overestimate their friends' level of delinquency? Second, does overestimation of friends' delinquency influence one's own delinquency? We examine these questions using data from two waves of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) School Project. These data include self-reports by school friends of their own delinquent behavior, as well as respondents' estimates of their friends' behavior, making them uniquely equipped to calculate how much respondents exaggerate the behavior of their school friends and to investigate the determinants and consequences of this overestimation. Findings indicate that youth who engage in delinquency, have attitudes supporting delinquency, and experience peer pressure are more likely to exaggerate the prevalence of delinquency in their friendship network. Also, overestimating friends' delinquency leads to more delinquency in a subsequent wave, net of actual delinquency of friends and individual and situational characteristics. Overestimating friends' delinquency has the strongest effect on individuals who value social approval, are unpopular in their school, and experience peer pressure from their friends. We conclude by discussing avenues for future research.

AB - This article examines how actors' perceptions of other people's behavior may be exaggerated and how this inaccuracy may influence behavior. More specifically, we apply these issues to improve our understanding of the correlation between delinquency of friends and individual delinquency. This relationship is one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences. However, research has not distinguished misperceptions of friends' behavior from actual behavior of friends, leaving two empirical questions unanswered. First, why do youth overestimate their friends' level of delinquency? Second, does overestimation of friends' delinquency influence one's own delinquency? We examine these questions using data from two waves of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) School Project. These data include self-reports by school friends of their own delinquent behavior, as well as respondents' estimates of their friends' behavior, making them uniquely equipped to calculate how much respondents exaggerate the behavior of their school friends and to investigate the determinants and consequences of this overestimation. Findings indicate that youth who engage in delinquency, have attitudes supporting delinquency, and experience peer pressure are more likely to exaggerate the prevalence of delinquency in their friendship network. Also, overestimating friends' delinquency leads to more delinquency in a subsequent wave, net of actual delinquency of friends and individual and situational characteristics. Overestimating friends' delinquency has the strongest effect on individuals who value social approval, are unpopular in their school, and experience peer pressure from their friends. We conclude by discussing avenues for future research.

KW - Cognitive bias

KW - Delinquency

KW - Measurement

KW - Peers

KW - Social influence

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84881358500&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84881358500&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1525/sp.2013.60.3.334

DO - 10.1525/sp.2013.60.3.334

M3 - Article

VL - 60

SP - 334

EP - 356

JO - Social Problems

JF - Social Problems

SN - 0037-7791

IS - 3

ER -