Deviancy training in male adolescent friendships

Thomas J. Dishion, Kathleen M. Spracklen, David W. Andrews, Gerald R. Patterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

654 Scopus citations


The conversations of 186 adolescent boys (13 to 14 years old) and their friends were videotaped and analyzed to understand the processes of influence associated with antisocial behavior. The videotaped discussions were coded with a system that captured the general topics (Normative vs. Rule-Breaking) as well as the reactions of the listener (Laugh vs. Pause). Matching law analyses confirmed a linear relationship between the dyadic rate of Rule- Breaking talk and contingent positive reactions. Sequential analyses revealed a statistically reliable reciprocal pattern between Rule-Breaking talk and Laugh in the delinquent (both boys arrested) dyads, whereas in the mixed (one arrested) and nondelinquent (neither arrested) dyads, reciprocation occurred between Normative talk and Laugh. Longitudinal analyses of the boys' behavior over the ensuing 2 years revealed that the deviancy training sequence was prognostic of increases in self-reported delinquent behavior, even after controlling for prior levels of delinquency. It appears that discussions of deviancy play a critical role in organizing positive affective exchanges, thereby establishing problem behavior as a common ground activity that potentially exacerbates adolescent social maladjustment. These findings are discussed with respect to developmental theory and intervention science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-390
Number of pages18
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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