Adolescent friendship as a dynamic system: Entropy and deviance in the etiology and course of male antisocial behavior

Thomas J. Dishion, Sarah E. Nelson, Charlotte E. Winter, Bernadette Marie Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


A dynamic systems framework was applied to understand the influence of friendship on antisocial behavior from childhood (age 9-10) through adulthood (age 24-25) for Oregon Youth Study males (N = 206). Boys were videotaped interacting with a friend at ages 14, 16, and 18, and deviant content and interpersonal processes were independently coded. Conditional dyadic interpersonal processes were studied as a communication system and summarized by an index of information entropy (F. Attneave, 1959). High entropy scores represent disorganized, unpredictable patterns of interaction, whereas low entropy scores reflect an organized dialogue. Conversations of early-onset antisocial boys and their best friends were less organized and included more deviant content than those of well-adjusted controls. Prediction analyses, however, revealed an interaction between entropy and deviant talk. Consistent with expectation, males with well-organized interactions (i.e., low entropy) but elevated levels of deviant content were most likely to continue antisocial behavior into adulthood. Findings suggest that individual risk for maladaptation may be amplified by early adolescent friendship dynamics organized around deviance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-663
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • antisocial behavior
  • dyadic interaction
  • friendship
  • peer relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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