Method: This study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) (Time 6), a longitudinal study that followed the birth cohort born between 1998 and 2000 in US cities. The analytic sample consisted of 2,951 adolescents whose average age was 15.57 years old (SD = .75). The analyses employed adolescent-reported delinquency (13 items), household chaos (5 items), impulsivity (6 items), and school connectedness (4 items) measures. Data were analyzed through mediation (Model 4) and moderated mediation analyses (Model 9) using the PROCESS Macro program in SPSS.
Results: The results indicated that household chaos was positively associated with delinquency and that impulsivity mediated this association. Our moderated mediation analyses showed that the pathway between impulsivity and delinquency was moderated by school connectedness. In other words, the association between impulsivity and delinquency was weaker for adolescents with higher levels of school connectedness than adolescents with low levels of school connectedness. Unexpectedly, household chaos was more likely to trigger impulsive behavior in adolescents who had established more connections through their schools. This may be because impulsivity is a temperamental trait, and adolescents with certain temperamental characteristics are more likely to be influenced by both negative and positive environments.
Conclusion/Implications: Our findings highlight the significant proximal impact that daily disorganization has on adolescent impulsivity and delinquency. It also provides a deeper understanding into how life in a chaotic home environment can contribute to delinquent behavior. Prevention programs that are designed to reduce delinquency may need to develop strategies to diminish impulsivity. In addition, our findings underscore the importance of using school connectedness to shield against behaviors that foster delinquency. School-based interventions that aim to promote school connectedness can effectively prevent delinquency by reducing the impact of impulsivity and by encouraging adolescents to make positive transitions into adulthood.