Deviant talk in adolescent friendships: A step toward measuring a pathogenic attractor process

Isabela Granic, Thomas J. Dishion

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Deviant talk in adolescent friendships has been previously found to predict escalations in substance use, delinquency, and violence. The current paper extends past work on deviant talk by examining its dynamic, self-organizing properties. From the direct observations of peer interactions, a simple measure was developed that indicated whether, as an interaction unfolded, deviant talk bouts became longer in duration (indicating an attractor state). Participants included 102 high-risk adolescents and their friends. A time-series of the duration of each successive deviant talk bout over the course of an interaction was created for all dyads. Slope values were derived from the time-series and used as an index of attractor strength. As hypothesized, the attractor index predicted serious authority conflict (arrests, school expulsion) and drug abuse three years later, after controlling for prior problem behavior, family coercion and deviant peer associations. The findings suggest that the process by which adolescents become increasingly absorbed in deviant talk is an important underlying mechanism in the development of serious antisocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-334
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 21 2003


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Delinquency
  • Dynamic systems
  • Peer relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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