Terminal Core Values Associated with Adolescent Problem Behaviors
Goff, Brent G., Goddard, H. Wallace, Adolescence
According to several theories, delinquency is related, directly or indirectly, to terminal core values (such as security and sense of belonging). It has been suggested that problem behavior is the result of deviant self-image, which arises from the values adopted as "guiding principles" (Grube, Weir, Getzlaf, & Rokeach, 1984). Delinquency may be an attempt to mimic deviant referents and to repudiate nondeviant referents (Grube et al., 1984). Further, by subscribing to the values of deviant peers, adolescents select a delinquent identity (Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Conger, 1991).
The subculture-of-violence thesis (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967) proposes that some groups are accepting of violence. Members are thought to assimilate the values of the group, which guides violent behavior. Values are also thought to mediate the relationship between sociodemographic variables and violent behavior (Felson, Liska, South, & McNulty, 1994).
Some believe that the development of a delinquent lifestyle is a matter of conscious choice based on values (Kennedy & Baron, 1993). An individual may choose to engage in a predatory crime after considering personal values, such as the need for peer approval or, expressed in values language, being well-respected (Seigal & Senna, 1991). Maintaining honor, which is related to being well-respected, also seems to be strongly related to violence (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967). Violence may thus be viewed as a "prestige-conferring behavior" (Kennedy & Baron, 1993, p. 91). Further, delinquency is likely to be related to such values as toughness, excitement, and risk taking (Miller, 1958). In addition, Hurrelmann and Engel (1992) claim that delinquency is a symptom of adolescents' orientation toward success (sense of accomplishment) and status (being well-respected). Consequently, problem behavior may be a rational choice for individuals whose goals are frustrated (Felson et al., 1994). This is consistent with the position that delinquency results when success and achievement are desired but unattainable through socially acceptable means (Cloward & Olin, 1960).
Strain theory proposes that strain is produced when there is a gap between security needs and the means to fulfill those needs (Bernard, 1984). Security and delinquency are linked: "people are driven to do things they do not want to do" (Bernard, 1984, p. 357). Revised strain theory suggests that adolescents focus on multiple goals (desired end states) and that blockage of those goals may result in delinquency (Agnew, 1985). Delinquent behavior seems to be an illegitimate means of fulfilling desired end states (values), which may explain why delinquency is found across social classes.
One widely used measure of terminal values is Kahle's (1986) List of Values (LOV), which can be arranged so as to be congruent with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A values-hierarchy approach may explain anomalies in delinquency theory. For example, some adolescents go for long periods of time without committing delinquent acts (Hirschi, 1969), behavior that is understandable if these adolescents have found alternative means of fulfilling their desired end states, or values. This approach may also explain, in part, why most abandon delinquent behavior in late adolescence (e.g., Greenberg, 1977; Hirschi, 1969), a time when they more likely have sorted out their values (prioritized) and found better means of fulfilling them.
Values are related to how people reason about social issues (e.g., Tetlock, 1986; Kristiansen & Matheson, 1990), to attitude formation (Homer & Kahle, 1988), and to behavior (Williams, 1979). Delinquents are likely to perceive positive consequences from problem behavior, are less likely to perceive their behavior in terms of moral issues, and tend to hold beliefs that neutralize the moral consequences of delinquent behavior (Guerra, 1989). A link between fun and enjoyment (positive consequence) and delinquency implies a lack of social control: "people are freed to do what they want" (Bernard, 1984, p. 357).
Some values are thought to be in opposition to one another. For instance, the values of achievement and hedonism may conflict with that of empathy (Kamakura & Novak, 1992). Achievement (i.e., sense of accomplishment, self-fulfillment, being well-respected) and hedonism (i.e., fun and enjoyment) are more self oriented, while empathy (i.e., warm relationships with others) is other oriented. Similarly, a world at peace and national security tend to be conflicting values. The value-justification hypothesis states that individuals justify their attitudes by appealing to particular values (Eiser, 1987). For example, some people may oppose nuclear weapons on the grounds that they reduce the chances of peace, while others support nuclear weapons on the grounds that they improve national security (Kristiansen & Matheson, 1990).
Dominant values influence beliefs and attitudes, which are reflected in behavior (lifestyle). Each referent group tends to develop a dominant set of values to which members of the group are favorably disposed. They construe reality in terms of those salient values and act accordingly.
Relationship of Values to Adolescent Problem Behavior
Studies have provided some insight into possible links between values and problem behaviors. Adoption of prosocial values (Braithwaite & Law, 1985) has been found to inhibit the selection of deviant peers and to have a negative, indirect effect on delinquent behavior (Simons et al., 1991). Specifically, prosocial values correlate negatively with trouble at school, depression, and substance abuse (Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Melby, 1991).
Values may also mediate the relationship between dysfunctional family interaction and adolescent problem behavior (Allen, Leadbeater, & Aber, 1990). This appears to be a special type of learned deviance (Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Conger, 1991). Specifically, adolescent females' lack of identification with adult values is related to delinquency, drug use, and unprotected sexual activity (Allen, Leadbeater, & Aber, 1990).
Some researchers have suggested that the values of independence and excitement are related to having deviant peers, as well as to substance abuse (Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Melby, 1991). Sensation seeking (excitement) has been linked to delinquency (Farely & Sewell, 1976). Findings have indicated that the values of excitement and pleasure are associated with smoking, while the values of sense of accomplishment, security, and self-respect are associated with nonsmoking (Grube et al., 1984). An exciting life is a value that is positively related to alcoholism, while social recognition (being well-respected) is negatively related (Flores, 1986). Independence and enjoyment of sensuous experiences are values that have been linked to drug use, while sympathy and nurturing (empathy) and high aspiration for self (achievement) are negatively related to drug use (Block, Block, & Keyes, 1988).
There also may be a connection between terminal values and sexual activity. Offir, Fisher, Williams, and Fisher (1993) found sexual activity to be negatively related to security and positively related to pleasure (fun and enjoyment, excitement). According to Jessor and Jessor (1975), sexual activity appears to be related to independence and autonomy, closeness or love (warm relationships with others), and an attempt to gain peer-group respect (being well-respected). In addition, sexual activity is related to pleasure, conquest, and increased status and esteem (being well-respected, sense of accomplishment) for males (Sorenson, 1973; Weis, 1983).
Kahle (1983) has demonstrated that groups segmented by their most important terminal core value show significant differences in race, gender, political preference, religion, occupation, income, and lifestyle. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether adolescents grouped by their dominant value (most important terminal value) differ in the frequency in which they engage in delinquent acts, substance use, and sexual activity.
Participants were 685 students in two rural Southern high schools. Permission to participate in the study was obtained from parents. Surveys were administered during regular class periods by trained teachers or counselors. To reduce information transfer, all of the classes within each school were administered the survey at the same time. A system of veracity checks was utilized to test for accuracy of response, reducing the number of usable surveys to 544. The sample was 48% male, 72% African American, and the average age was 16 years. Forty-six percent of the students lived with both natural parents. Most parents (81% of the fathers and 80% of the mothers) had at least a high school education. Most of the parents were employed (84% of the fathers and 70% of the mothers). The adolescents were sorted according to their dominant value: sense of belonging (29), excitement (25), warm relationships with others (81), self-fulfillment (17), being well-respected (91), fun and enjoyment (52), security (31), self-respect (142), and sense of accomplishment (76).
Delinquency was measured using 17 frequency items derived from the Alabama Teen Assessment Program (ALTAP). For most delinquent acts, responses ranged from never to four or more times in the last year. Trouble at school (items such as parents called, expulsion) was measured for the last six months, and frequency of truancy was measured for the last month.
Frequency of use of seven substances was measured on a 6-category scale, with responses ranging from never used to use every day. Age at first use of tobacco and alcohol was also assessed. In addition, students were asked how often they drank to get drunk, with 6 possible responses, ranging from do not drink to often drink to get drunk. Frequency of drinking was further assessed among nonabstainers on a 10-point scale, anchored by hardly ever drink (1) and drink all the time (10).
Sexual frequency items were derived from ALTAP. Age at first intercourse for the sexually active was measured using 12 categories that ranged from 8 to 18 years. One item measured number of partners, with 6 possible responses, ranging from none to 11 or more. Sexually active adolescents were also asked to rate their activity on a 10-point scale, ranging from not sexually active (1) to very sexually active (10).
Terminal core values were measured using LOV. Students were asked to circle, from a list of nine values, the one that was most important to them.
Students were divided into nine groups according to their most important value. Table 1 shows the gender, race, approximate grade point average, and mean age for each group. ANOVA and Tukey multiple range tests were used to assess differences in problem behaviors across the nine value groups. A value group was deemed to be high or low in frequency of a particular problem behavior in relation to the other value groups.
Certain terminal core (dominant) values appear to inhibit or enhance problem behavior (see Table 2). Shoplifting appears to be inhibited by sense of belonging, warm relationships with others, being well-respected, [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by the value of fun and enjoyment. Petty theft (less than $50) seems to be inhibited by sense of belonging and encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Theft (more than $50) seems to be inhibited by being well-respected and self-respect and encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Breaking and entering is inhibited by sense of belonging, excitement, warm relationships with others, being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by security. The same pattern appears for violence involving a weapon. Physical violence is inhibited by sense of belonging, warm relationships with others, and self-respect, and encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Use of a weapon for extortion has a pattern similar to that for breaking and entering and violence with a weapon, except that excitement and sense of accomplishment do not act as inhibitors. Physical extortion is inhibited by warm relationships with others, being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by fun and enjoyment and security. Vehicle theft is inhibited by excitement, warm relationships with others, being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Being arrested was less frequent for the excitement and self-respect groups and most frequent for the security group. Vandalism is inhibited by sense of belonging, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Truancy is inhibited by being well-respected and self-respect, and encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Trouble at [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] school is inhibited by sense of belonging, being well-respected, self-respect, and a sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Forced sex, running away, having parents called to school, and suspension/expulsion from school were not differentiated by dominant value. Thus, delinquency seems to be encouraged by two dominant values, fun and enjoyment (a hedonistic value) and security (a survival value or very primal motive), and inhibited by the seven other values. The most effective inhibition values, in order of impact, are self-respect and being well-respected (moral respect values), warm relationships with others and sense of belonging (sociability values), sense of accomplishment (a self-actualization value), excitement (a hedonistic value), and self-fulfillment (a self-actualization value).
The results for substance use provide additional insight. Smoking tobacco is inhibited by the values of being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment. It is encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Drinking beer/wine has the same pattern. Drinking hard liquor is inhibited by self-respect and sense of accomplishment, and encouraged by fun and enjoyment. Use of marijuana is inhibited by being well-respected and encouraged by fun and enjoyment.
Self-fulfillment, self-respect, security, sense of accomplishment, and being well-respected delay the onset of smoking. However, fun and enjoyment is a value that encourages use of tobacco at an early age. Only self-respect delays the use of alcohol, while self-fulfillment and fun and enjoyment encourage drinking at an early age. Drunkenness was less common for the being well-respected, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment groups, and most frequent for the fun and enjoyment segment. Frequent drinking has a similar pattern to that for drunkenness, although warm relationships with others also acts as an inhibitor. There were no value differences for chewing tobacco, use of cocaine, and other drug use.
Having fewer sex partners is associated with sense of belonging, and having more partners with being well-respected. Frequency of adolescent sexual activity is inhibited by sense of belonging, and enhanced by warm relationships with others. Age at first intercourse was not differentiated by dominant value.
The two groups most prone to problem behaviors were those with the dominant values of fun/enjoyment and security. In addition, it appears that the dominant values related to recreational deviance were different from the dominant values related to survival deviance. The dominance of the fun and enjoyment value suggests that adolescents are free to do what they want (a lack of self-control and social control), and the dominance of security suggests that adolescents are forced to do things they do not want to do (strain theory). Dominance of security as a value may also suggest anxiety and insecurity arising from insensitive caregiving during childhood. The more violent crimes and those that directly involve a victim seem to be associated with the dominance of security. Crimes against property (vandalism) and those that indirectly involve a victim through property (shoplifting, theft) seem to be associated with the dominance of fun and enjoyment. Further, substance abuse (a crime primarily against self) is strongly associated with fun and enjoyment but not with security.
The empathy values of sense of belonging and warm relationships with others seem to be important inhibitors of the more violent crimes, and tend to offset elements relevant to strain theory. In contrast, the moral respect values (self-respect, being well-respected) and the self-actualization value of sense of accomplishment appear to have a more general effect, inhibiting violent crimes, minor delinquent acts, and substance abuse.
Consistent with previous research, warm relationships with others and being well-respected encouraged sexual activity. However, sense of belonging inhibited sexual activity. It is possible that adolescents with a strong sense of belonging primarily associate it with family or friends. Warm relationship with others may represent the transition to dyadic, sexually oriented relationships. This is consistent with Kamakura and Novak's (1992) observation that warm relationship with others is often interpreted as having a sexual connotation. The finding that being well-respected was associated with a greater number of partners seems consistent with the male perception of sex as a means to increase status, esteem, and peer-group respect.
The salience of terminal core values is at the heart of a unique intervention strategy that may be applicable to problem behavior. Value self-confrontation methods, which were pioneered by Rokeach (1973), seek to change people's behavior by changing the priority of the values that underlie that behavior (Schwartz & Inbar-Saban, 1988). Values self-confrontation has been successfully used to reduce smoking (Conroy, 1979), increase weight loss (Schwartz & Inbar-Saban, 1988), increase financial contributions to, and membership in, civil rights organizations (Rokeach, 1973), and enhance pro-environment behavior (Ball-Rokeach et al., 1984). Values self-confrontation has been used in classroom settings, via computer feedback and through the mass media (Grube, Mayton, & Ball-Rokeach, 1994). The theoretical foundation of value self-confrontation and a description of its implementation are provided by Grube et al. (1994) and Schwartz and Inbar-Saban (1988). Further research should be undertaken to determine its effectiveness with adolescent problem behaviors.
Identifying adolescents by their most important value appears to have diagnostic merit, as those whose dominant value is fun and enjoyment or security appear to be prone to problem behavior. The salience of fun and enjoyment may be altered by such intervention approaches as values self-confrontation. However, altering the salience of security may be more problematic, especially if it is a dominating value because of difficult life circumstances (as posited by strain theory). It may be necessary to provide adolescents with the means to fulfill security needs through more legitimate outlets.
Programs that increase the salience of self-respect, being well-respected (positive peer pressure), and sense of accomplishment would tend to decrease propensities toward problem behavior. Further, sense of belonging appears to be an important value for sexual abstinence. These values appear to be "guiding principles" that tend to inhibit the formation of a deviant self-image and, consequently, trajectory.
The fun and enjoyment group consisted predominantly of males (71%), which was not surprising. However, the security group was predominantly female (67%), which seems incongruent with this group's high frequency of violent crimes. In order to better understand the effects of gender, exploratory t-test analysis was conducted on selected groups. Gender was the independent variable and the 17 delinquency items were the dependent variables. Results indicated that males in the fun and enjoyment group more frequently engaged in shoplifting, physical assault, and physical extortion, while females more frequently ran away. For the group that had security as the dominant value, males more frequently engaged in breaking and entering, physical assault, vehicle theft, and vandalism, and were more frequently suspended/expelled from school and arrested. It is interesting to note that there was no gender difference in crimes involving weapons. Security as a dominant value seems to be a marker for violent delinquents of both sexes, but an especially good marker for violent females, who may be difficult to detect by other means.
An exploratory analysis of the fun and enjoyment group revealed no gender differences in frequency of substance use. The dominant value of fun and enjoyment thus appears to be a good marker for both male and female substance users. Analysis of the sense of belonging group revealed no gender differences in frequency of sex or number of partners. Sense of belonging appears to inhibit sexual activity for both males and females. Examination of the being well-respected group revealed no gender differences in the number of sexual partners. For this sample, adolescents of both sexes who valued being well-respected tended to have more partners, implying that this behavior increases respect and enhances social status.
Additional research is needed to fully understand the relationships between values and various problem behaviors. Future studies should incorporate a more comprehensive set of deviant activities and values (e.g., Schwartz & Bilsky, 1990). Further, the effectiveness of values self-confrontation should be examined for various problem behaviors and across different samples, such as incarcerated youth.
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Publication information: Article title: Terminal Core Values Associated with Adolescent Problem Behaviors. Contributors: Goff, Brent G. - Author, Goddard, H. Wallace - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 34. Issue: 133 Publication date: Spring 1999. Page number: 47. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.