Abstract: Correlates and Predictors of Delinquent Behavior Among African American Youth Living in Urban Public Housing (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Correlates and Predictors of Delinquent Behavior Among African American Youth Living in Urban Public Housing

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Archives, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Charles M. S. Birore, PhD, Associate Professor, Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA
Sharon T. Alston, PhD, Assistant Professor, Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA
Background and Purpose: African American youth’s delinquency is a complex, socially constructed problem. However, many researchers use a Eurocentric worldview as a universal standard to assess the behaviors of black youth; viewing delinquency as a violation of prosocial behavior and norms of society. Few consider it as a response to the hostile and oppressive social environments in which they live. The objective of this study was to expand our understanding of African American youth’s delinquency by exploring its correlates and predictors within the ecological context of urban public housing. Two questions were advanced: first, what are the sociodemographic, psychological, sociological, and social environmental correlates of delinquent behavior of African American youth who live in public housing? Second, which set of factors best predicts delinquent behavior of African American youth who live in urban public housing?

Methods: Secondary data of African American youth ages 11-17 (N =142) from a large, cross-sectional survey of the Context Matters (CTM) study in New York City participated in the study. Standardized instruments used to collect data included self-reported delinquency scale, future aspirations scale, peer influence scale (Elliott, 1996), parental attitude scale (Lamborn et al., 1991), general self-efficacy scale (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995), Weinberger adjustment inventory emotional-restraint subscale (Weinberger, 1990), social responsibility scale (Nedwek, 1987), exposure to community violence self-report (Richter & Martinez, 1990), and exposure to delinquent peers (Elliott, 1996). Data collected included sociodemographic (age, gender, tenure in urban public housing), psychological (aspiration, self-efficacy, emotional restraint, social responsibility), sociological (parental encouragement and monitoring, peer influence), and social environmental factors (exposure to delinquent peers and community violence). Pearson correlation and multiple regression (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 26) were used to analyze data.

Findings: Exposure to delinquent peers, r(142) = .37, p < .001, exposure to community violence, r(142) = .32, p < .001, and emotional self-restraint, r(142) = .15, p < .036 positively associated with delinquent behavior; and paternal monitoring, r(140) = ̶ .18, p < .018 negatively associated with delinquent behavior. The stepwise multiple regression revealed an overall model of five variables: gender, social responsibility, exposure to delinquent peers, paternal monitoring, and exposure to community violence as significant predictors of delinquent behavior [R= .510, R2 = .260, R2adj = .232, (F(5, 132) = 9.280, p < .001)]. The model accounted for 26% of the variance in the dependent variable. Exposure to delinquent peers (social environment) was the best predictor of delinquency.

Conclusion and Implications: An exposure to violence and delinquent peers, and social responsibility associate with youth delinquency. The implications of these findings (1) parents should monitor their children’s social environment by protecting them from violence and discouraging affiliation with delinquent peers. (2) youth leaders, practitioners, and educators should consider the ecological contexts in which African American youth live when they address their needs and challenges. (3) Programs and services to African American youth should emphasize training them on improving self-confidence, anger management, personal responsibility, and conflict resolution skills. (4) Future researchers should re-conceptualize black youth delinquency using Afrocentric worldview.