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Protective processes: the function of young people's implicit theories of crime in offending behaviour

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Despite development in high-risk environments, many youths are resilient and do not engage in antisocial behaviour and crime. Research on human traits such as intelligence and morality, suggest that the implicit theories (ITs) people have about the controllability of their behaviour, as either fixed (entity beliefs) or malleable (incremental beliefs) may play a part in successful behavioural outcomes. Using this as a framework, the function of ITs about crime in successful adolescent development was investigated among 422 ‘at-risk’ youths. Incremental ITs of criminality were found to significantly predict less self-reported involvement in youth offending, controlling for academic attainment. Entity ITs, conversely, were associated with an increased rate of participation in deviant behaviour. Further analysis revealed that incremental ITs of criminality moderated the negative effects of associating with delinquent peers on adolescent behaviour. The results demonstrate the direct and indirect protective function of incremental ITs of criminality for youths at risk and highlight the value of investigating further the protective processes that are involved in preventing youth crime.
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Keywords: attribution; explanations of youth crime; implicit theories; offending behaviour; youth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Psychology,University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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