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Violence Research Centre


A recent study carried out by researchers at the VU University in Amsterdam, Utrecht University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Zurich suggests that healthy bonds with parents support the development of self-control in mid- and late adolescence. Lacking self-control, in turn, was found to predict involvement in delinquent activities. The research suggests that helping parents to maintain strong bonds with their children through adolescence can enhance self-control and prevent future criminal behaviour.

Social influences, peer delinquency, and low self-control: An examination of time-varying and reciprocal effects on delinquency over adolescence by Twan Huijsmans, Amy E. Nivette, Manuel Eisner and Denis Ribeaud was published last April and also credits social institutions like schools as crucial for a teen’s healthy psychological development.

Parental and social influences, including peer delinquency, affect levels of self-control. The study uses three data waves of the Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso), an ongoing longitudinal study with a sample of 1675 children. 



We examine an integrated dynamic model of social influences and internal controls on delinquency in adolescence. We assessed to what extent parental bonds, peer delinquency, and self-control were reciprocally related to delinquency throughout adolescence, and whether their effects were time varying. We applied cross-lagged panel models to analyze these relationships using three waves of data from a sample of Swiss youth at ages 13 to 17. Results suggest that self-control is a strong predictor for future delinquent behavior. Moreover, social influences affect self-control into adolescence, contributing to a growing area of research on the dynamic properties of self-control over the life course. Social influences, in particular peer delinquency, are also reciprocally related to delinquency, implying that delinquency can lead to cumulative disadvantages that further entrench individuals in antisocial pathways over the life course.

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