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Psychosocial Correlates of Adolescent Drug Dealing in the Inner City: Potential Roles of Opportunity, Conventional Commitments, and Maturity

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 43 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 357-386
Date Published
November 2006
30 pages

This study tested a model of the simultaneous and interactive influence of social context, psychosocial attitudes, and individual maturity on the prediction of urban adolescents' drug dealing.


Consistent with study hypotheses, findings show that community, family, and peer factors were the strongest correlates of adolescents' frequency of drug dealing. Adolescents who sold the most drugs were more likely to live in neighborhoods with significant physical and social disorder, low parental monitoring, high rates of parental substance use, and high levels of peer deviance. The results suggest that adolescents' alienation from sources of prosocial opportunity (e.g., school) and diminished expectations of conventional success (earning a good income and starting a career) were important incentives for drug dealing. Individual differences in maturity also influenced adolescents' restraint from drug dealing. Apparently, within a given context, adolescents behave differently according to their level of psychosocial maturity. The study sample consisted of 605 serious male juvenile offenders from the Philadelphia sample of an ongoing longitudinal study, Research on Pathways to Desistance. Participants were between the ages of 14 and 17 when they enrolled in the study. Drug-dealing frequency was determined from questions on the Self-Report of Offending. Weekly incomes from licit jobs and drug dealing were determined from open-ended questions. Drug-dealing opportunity was assessed from five variables: neighborhood conditions, perceived opportunity for neighborhood work, parental monitoring, parental substance use and abuse, and peer delinquency. The quality of neighborhood conditions was determined from a 21-item self-report measure. Other variables measured were perceived neighborhood job opportunity, parental monitoring, parental substance use, peer delinquency, drug opportunity cluster, perceived pay-off from crime, legal cynicism, perceived social pay-off from crime, conventional goals and expectations, maturity, future orientation, autonomy, resistance to peer influence, temperance, and school commitment. 6 tables, 4 notes, and 55 references

Date Published: November 1, 2006