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Peer delinquency is a robust correlate of delinquent and criminal behavior. However, debate continues to surround the proper measurement of peer delinquency. Recent research suggests that some respondents are likely to misrepresent their peers’ involvement in delinquency when asked in survey questionnaires, drawing into question the traditional (i.e., perceptual) measurement of peer delinquency. Research also has shown that direct measures of peer delinquency (e.g., measures obtained via networking methods such as Add Health), as compared with perceptual measures, differentially correlate with key theoretical variables (e.g., respondent delinquency and respondent self-control), raising the question of whether misperception of peer delinquency is systematic and can be predicted. Almost no research, however, has focused on this issue. This study, therefore, provides detailed information on respondents’ misperceptions of peer behavior and investigates whether individual characteristics, the amount of time spent with peers, and peer network properties predict these misperceptions. Findings indicated that 1) some individuals—to varying degrees—misperceived the delinquent behavior of their peers; 2) self-control and self-reported delinquency predicted misperception; 3) respondents occupying densely populated peer networks were less likely to misperceive their peers’ delinquent involvement; and 4) peers who occupy networks in which individuals spend a lot of time together were more likely to misperceive peer delinquency. Implications are discussed.
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Keywords: delinquent peers; measurement; self-control; social networks; theory testing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeArizona State University 2: Criminology ProgramUniversity of Texas at Dallas 3: Department of Criminal JusticeFlorida International University 4: Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crimeand Law Enforcement (NSCR)

Publication date: 01 May 2011

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