Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Fall 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Sociology

First Advisor

Karen Heimer

Abstract

Agnew's (1992) general strain theory (GST) provides a framework for understanding individual and social factors that influence juvenile delinquency. Given the breadth of ideas encompassed by GST, tests typically focus on particular elements rather than testing the theory as a whole. Studies have provided a great deal of support for many of the core tenets of GST (e.g., Agnew and White 1992), while failing to produce conclusive support for others (e.g., Paternoster and Mazerolle 1994). Specifically, Agnew (1992) argues that the relationship between strain and delinquency is conditional, although research regarding what factors and through what mechanisms these factors shape the relationship is not conclusive. This project studies particular forms of strain -- noxious peer relationships and bullying victimization -- as well as tests the conditioning effects of self-efficacy within the strain-delinquency relationship.

Self-efficacy is defined as one's personal evaluation of their ability to produce desired outcomes in a given situation (Bandura 1987, 1997). Agnew (1992) suggests self-efficacy is a coping resource that will condition the relationship between strain and delinquency. It is hypothesized that variations in self-efficacy will translate to differences in selected methods for coping and engagement in conventional coping adaptations to strain.

I test the relationship between various forms of strain, self-efficacy and delinquency using two distinct data sets and methodologies. Findings from cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses indicate noxious peer relationships and bullying victimization are both positively related to delinquency. The theoretical implications surrounding the importance of self-efficacy as a coping resource, which promote conventional cognitive coping, are highlighted. But, indirect tests suggest this idea is not supported. In this research, self-efficacy does not moderate the relationship between strain and delinquency in the expected manner. Across methods and measures, strain and self-efficacy influence delinquency independent of each other.

The dissertation concludes with a discussion of future research possibilities and policy implications.

Public Abstract

Agnew’s (1992) general strain theory (GST) provides a framework for understanding individual and social factors that influence juvenile delinquency. Given the breadth of ideas encompassed by GST, tests must focus on particular elements, rather than testing the theory as a whole. Studies have provided a great deal of support for many of the core tenets of GST (e.g., Agnew and White 1992), while failing to produce conclusive support for others (e.g., Paternoster and Mazerolle 1994). Specifically, Agnew (1992) argues that the relationship between strain and delinquency is conditional, although research regarding what factors and through what mechanisms these factors shape the relationship is not conclusive. This project studies particular forms of strain — noxious peer relationships and bullying victimization — as well as tests the conditioning effects of self-efficacy within the strain-delinquency relationship. The theoretical implications surrounding the importance of self-efficacy as a coping resource, which promotes conventional cognitive coping, are highlighted. I test the relationship between strain, self-efficacy, and delinquency using two distinct data sets and methodologies. Findings from cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses indicate both noxious peer relationships and bullying victimization are positively related to delinquency. Self-efficacy does not moderate the relationship between strain and delinquency in the expected manner. A core conclusion drawn from this work is that strain and self-efficacy operate independently to influence delinquency. Suggestions surrounding future works that may be inspired by this research, and the potential value in the development of self-efficacy and cognitive coping abilities for youths, conclude this dissertation.

Keywords

publicabstract, Bullying, Coping, Delinquency, Self-Efficacy, Strain

Pages

xii, 189 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 175-189).

Copyright

Copyright 2014 Michaela Siobhan Ruppert

Included in

Sociology Commons

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