Segregating students on the margin: Peer relationships in alternative charter high schools

Cynthia Mattern, Kathryn Nakagawa

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Abstract

This study examined peer relationships among "at-risk" students segregated in alternative education programs at charter schools. We studied how peer relationships among groups of segregated at-risk students were related to the amount and kind of delinquent acts students committed, and we explored how peer relationships for the students differed by gender. Two theories were tested in this study: interpersonal strain theory, which suggests that individuals commit delinquent acts due to negative peer relationships (e.g., difficulty making friends, being put down by others), and differential association theory, which argues that individuals are delinquent due to association with delinquent peers. A survey was administered to 135 students (82 girls and 53 boys) enrolled in charter schools offering alternative education programs for at-risk adolescents. Overall, gender was found to be the strongest predictor of delinquent behavior, with boys reporting more delinquency than girls. Correlation and regression analyses indicated that, in these segregated settings, students who reported getting along better with their peers were also more likely to report increased delinquent behavior. For example, getting along well with members of the opposite sex was related to increased property offenses for girls and increased offenses involving force for boys. Implications for alternative education settings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Issues in Education
Volume6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2003

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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