Intimacy With One's Mother and Its Effects On Peer Delinquency During Adolescence
Methods: Longitudinal data analysis was conducted on an ongoing National Institute of Child Health and Development funded study of the effects of maltreatment on adolescents. The sample consists of 280 adolescents (mean baseline age=10.9) living in Los Angeles, CA. Participants were assessed at three time points approximately one year apart. Peer delinquency was assessed via the Adolescent Delinquency Questionnaire, a self-report measure that asked participants if they knew people their age who had engaged in various forms of delinquent behavior. The Intimacy Scales, a self-report measure of intimacy with one’s mother, was used as a proxy for assessing the social bonds between adolescents and their mothers. Both random- and fixed-effects models were used to estimate the relationship between intimacy with one’s mother and peer delinquency across time.
Results: Results from the random-effects model revealed that there was a negative effect of intimacy with one’s mother on peer delinquency across time (β =-.0135, p<.01). A fixed-effects model, which has the advantage of controlling for unmeasured time-invariant characteristics, also indicated that this relationship was significant in the expected direction (β =-.0145, p<.01). Neither child maltreatment nor gender moderated this relationship.
Implications: We found that youth who perceived their relationships with their mothers as more intimate had significantly lower peer delinquency scores across time, thus providing evidence in support of Hawkins and Weis’s social development model. These findings suggest that interventions designed to prevent maladaptive associations with delinquent peers should target children’s social bonds with their mothers. These goals could be incorporated into existing forms of individual and family therapy for at-risk youth. Additionally, these findings might be used to inform primary prevention interventions, such as promoting positive attachment processes in communities affected by high rates of juvenile offending. Future research should explore how other types of social bonds, such as those with the family and occurring within other domains of children’s lives (schools, neighborhoods, etc.), also contribute to the association with delinquent peers.