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Simons, Ronald L.; Johnson, Christine; Conger, Rand D.; & Elder, Glen H., Jr. (1998). A Test of Latent Trait versus Life-course Perspectives on the Stability of Adolescent Antisocial Behavior. Criminology, 36(2), 217-243.


Latent trait and life-course theories provide contrasting interpretations of the well-established finding that childhood antisocial behavior often precedes adolescent conduct problems and adult crime. Longitudinal data from 179 boys and their parents were used to test hypotheses derived from the two theoretical perspectives. The findings largely supported the life-course view. Oppositional behavior during late childhood predicted reductions in quality of parenting and school commitment and increased affiliation with deviant peers. These changes, in turn, predicted conduct problems during early adolescence. Although there was a moderately strong bivariate correlation between childhood antisocial behavior and adolescent conduct problems, there was no longer an association between these constructs when the effects of parenting, school, and peers were taken into account. Further, there was evidence that improved parenting, increased school commitment, or reduced affiliation with deviant peers lowered the probability that boys who were oppositional during childhood would graduate to delinquency and drug use during adolescence. Together, these findings suggest that the correlation between childhood and adolescent deviant behavior reflects a developmental process rather than a latent antisocial trait.


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Simons, Ronald L.
Johnson, Christine
Conger, Rand D.
Elder, Glen H., Jr.