Little research has examined the way in which perceptions of peer behavior (i.e., descriptive norms) influence externalizing behavior among rural adolescents. Using a social norms framework, the current study examined gender differences in the relationship between perceived delinquency among friends and externalizing behavior in a sample of rural adolescents. Based on previous research, the authors proposed that adolescents experience negative emotional responses when they believe that their peers are engaging in delinquency, which subsequently influences externalizing behavior. Consequently, internalizing symptoms were explored as a mediator of the relationship between perceived friend delinquency and externalizing behavior. Data came from the NC-ACE Rural Adaptation Project, a longitudinal panel study of adolescents in two rural, economically disadvantaged counties with exceptional racial/ethnic diversity (29 % White, 25 % African American, 25 % American Indian, 12 % Mixed Race/Other, 9 % Hispanic/Latino). Using multiple group structural equation modeling (N = 3489; 51 % female), results indicated that perceived friend delinquency was significantly related to externalizing behavior and this relationship did not vary by gender. Internalizing symptoms fully mediated the relationship between perceived friend delinquency and externalizing behavior and the path between perceived friend delinquency and internalizing symptoms was stronger for males. Implications of these relationships for prevention and intervention programming for externalizing behavior were highlighted.
- Externalizing behavior
- Rural youth
- Social norms
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)