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Unstructured Socializing and Rates of Delinquency

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2004 Pages: 519-549
Date Published
August 2004
31 pages

This study examined whether time use can account for differences in rates of delinquency among groups of adolescents.


While individual adolescents engage in delinquent acts, delinquency is not only an individual-level phenomenon; rates of delinquency vary across groups. The current study draws from the routine activity perspective proposed by Osgood and colleagues (1996), in which individual deviant behavior is examined as a function of the everyday lives of the adolescents. The individual-level variable of unstructured socializing was examined in terms of whether differences in time use among groups of adolescents accounted for differences in delinquency rates among the groups. Furthermore, the effects of shared parenting and collective monitoring, variables drawn from social disorganization theory, on differences between groups in rates of unstructured socializing were examined. The main hypothesis predicted that high rates of unstructured socializing would produce individual-level opportunities for delinquent behavior. Data were drawn from a survey of 4,358 eighth grade students from 36 schools in 10 cities; variables under examination included self-reported delinquency, school variables, risk seeking behavior, impulsivity, and parental variables. Results of hierarchical linear modeling indicated support for the central hypothesis: time spent in unstructured socializing produced individual and contextual effects that explained most of the differences in rates of delinquency across groups of adolescents attending different schools. Moreover, parental modeling produced a contextual effect on unstructured socializing, lending support to the integration of routine activity and social disorganization theories. When parents are informed about their adolescents’ activities, less time is spent in unstructured socialization, thus decreasing opportunities for deviance. The combination of the social disorganization and the routine activity perspectives allows for the connection between everyday activity patterns at the individual-level and delinquency differences at the aggregate level. Future research should further explore these perspectives in explaining crime and delinquency. References, appendix

Date Published: August 1, 2004