Neighborhood and Community Factors: Effects on Deviant Behavior and Social Competence

Article excerpt

Socialization in a neighborhood and community at risk, defined in terms of violence, social alienation, school failure, and disruptive behavior, is a risk factor for the acquisition of antisocial and delinquent behavior. In order to test this hypothesis and examine the underlying mechanisms involved, 346 participants, 155 high-risk and 191 low-risk, aged 11 to 13, that is, under the age of criminal responsibility as established by the Spanish Law 5/2000 were selected. The results reveal that high-risk youngsters had higher rates of antisocial behavior and lower levels of social skills (i.e., greater tendency to externalize attribution of responsibility, fewer conflict resolution strategies, lower self esteem, and a lower degrees of emotional intelligence) in comparison to the lower-risk group. Finally, the results and implications of the study are discussed in the light of designing prevention programs.

Keywords: juvenile delinquency, deviant behavior, risk factors, protective factors, resilience

La socialización en un vecindario y comunidad de riesgo, definido por la violencia, exclusión social, fracaso escolar y comportamientos disruptivos, es un factor de riesgo para la adquisición de comportamientos antisociales y delictivos (p.e., Farrington, 1996; Lösell y Bender, 2003). Para contrastar esta hipótesis así como los mecanismos subyacentes a la misma, tomamos una muestra de 346, 155 de alto riesgo y 191 de bajo riesgo, participantes de entre 11 y 13 años, es decir, sin responsabilidad penal según la Ley 5/2000. Los resultados mostraron que los jóvenes de un ambiente social de riesgo presentaban mayores tasas de comportamiento antisocial así como una menor competencia social (vs. gr., mayor tendencia a la atribución externa de responsabilidad, menos estrategias de afrontamiento, un autoconcepto más bajo y un menor desarrollo de la inteligencia emocional) en comparación con menores de bajo riesgo social. Finalmente, se discuten los resultados e implicaciones para el diseño e implementación de programas preventivos.

Palabras clave: delincuencia juvenil, comportamiento antisocial, factores de riesgo, factores protectores, prevención, resiliencia

The models that have proven to be the most operative and effective for explaining antisocial behavior have two primary objectives: (a) to identify the risk and protective factors, and (b) to design models of social competency or vulnerability. Though both models appear to be divergent, they are complementary. Risk models have identified several variables that predispose an individual to antisocial behavior (Andrews & Bonta, 1998; Farrington, 1996) such as pre- and peri-natal factors; antisocial or procriminal attitudes and beliefs; temperamental and personality factors such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, egocentricism, poor problem-solving, and poor self-regulating skills; low intelligence; family history of criminality or poor parental supervision and discipline; broken homes; large families; socioeconomic deprivation; association with procriminal peers; school influences; community and neighborhood influences; low levels of personal, educational, vocational or financial achievement; and contextual variables. On the other hand, protective models profile protective factors (Lösel & Bender, 2003) such as biological and psychophysiological factors; temperamental and personality traits; cognitive competence; attachment to reference persons; upbringing and educational climate; school achievement, school bonding and employment; social networks and peer groups; self-related cognition, social cognition and beliefs; and neighborhood and community factors. Thus, it appears that some factors have a lineal relation with antisocial behavior whereas others do not. In terms of community and neighborhood factors, the main objective of this study, these may act either as protective or risk factors.

Given that protective or risk factors do not arise in isolation but appear to co-occur, the combination of risk factors has led to the proliferation of vulnerability or skills deficits models (Ross & Fabiano, 1985; Werner, 1986; Zubin, 1989) whilst protective factors have been associated with competency (Wallston, 1992). …