Rochester Youth Development Project - Project Overview

The Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS) is a longitudinal study of the development of delinquency and drug use, guided by interactional theory (Thornberry, 1987) and social network theory (Krohn, 1986). According to interactional theory, delinquency comes about because of the pattern of interactions between the individual and his or her environment. As bonds to conventional society (e.g., parents and teachers) weaken, social control is reduced and delinquency becomes more likely. For prolonged serious delinquency to emerge, however, association with other delinquent youth and the formation of delinquent beliefs are required. Once these delinquent patterns emerge, they have feedback effects, further eroding the person's bond to conventional society. These mutually reinforcing effects create trajectories toward increasing levels of involvement in delinquency. Social network theory is a complementary perspective that focuses on the impact of the social groups, or networks, in which the person is involved. All networks control the behavior of their members and channel that behavior toward consistency with group norms. Prosocial networks (e.g., Boy Scouts) increase the likelihood of conforming behavior; antisocial networks (e.g., gangs) increase the likelihood of antisocial behavior. The more pervasive the network is in a person's life, the more powerful the effect it has on his or her behavior.

The Rochester study has followed a sample of 1,000 urban adolescents initially selected in 1988, when they were in either the seventh or eighth grade in the Rochester, NY, public schools. They have been followed until the present and are now 22 years of age on average. The sample is 75 percent male and 25 percent female and is composed primarily of minority group members -- 68 percent African-American, 17 percent Hispanic (mostly Puerto Rican), and 15 percent white. Although the sample overselected youth at elevated risk for serious delinquency, the results presented here are statistically adjusted to represent the entire population of seventh and eighth grade students in the Rochester public schools.

Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers, and Delinquent Behavior Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  October 1998