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Deviant Peer Influences in Intervention and Public Policy for Youth. Social Policy Report. Volume 20, Number 1.

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The problem is well known to every parent of a teenager, every high school teacher, every clinical practitioner, and every social policy maker: vulnerable adolescents risk becoming more deviant through association with deviant peers and peer groups. Deviant peer influences are among the most potent factors in the development of antisocial behavior. Deviant youth are prone to seek out other deviant youth, but the tendency to self-select into deviant peer groups does not fully account for the effect that the peer group has on exacerbating the problem. More exposure to deviant peers increases the opportunity for peer influences to operate. It is now becoming known that well-intentioned adults and government programs may also exacerbate deviant peer influences by placing deviant youth into programs and settings that are populated by other deviant youth. In fact, the most common policy is to segregate unruly youth from the mainstream peer group and to place them in groups composed entirely or mostly of deviant peers. New studies indicate that sometimes this practice results in harmful effects. That is, the children whom we are attempting to help may in fact be made worse by our efforts. Placing a deviant adolescent with deviant peers can reduce the intended benefits of interventions and lead to less positive, sometimes even negative, outcomes, especially under conditions of poor supervision and lack of structure. Nonetheless, deviant youth do require a response, and economic, political, and treatment considerations complicate the solution. This report reviews the evidence on group interventions for deviant adolescents and makes recommendations that address the public policy problem of placements for deviant youth. This report makes the following recommendations: 1) Programs, placements, and treatments that aggregate deviant youth that are ineffective as well as costly should be terminated whenever possible; 2) Effective alternatives to deviant peer-group placement are available and should be supported; 3) Policy decision-making should take into account the system-wide impact of interventions and placements on both deviant youth and their communities; and 4) Practitioners, programs, and policymakers should document the peer context of each placement and evaluate the impact of each placement on the youth and the community. (Contains 1 figure and 3 tables.)

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Author:Dodge, Kenneth A.; Dishion, Thomas J.; Lansford, Jennifer E.
Publication:ERIC: Reports
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Guiding the Discussion on School Selection. Best Practices in Homeless Education.
Next Article:Understanding and Facilitating the Youth Mentoring Movement. Social Policy Report. Volume 22, Number 3.

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