Moral beliefs, isolation from peers, and abstention from delinquency

Timothy Brezina, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Criminological research has established that the vast majority of young people engage in some level of delinquency and drug use during the period of adolescence. Thus young people who completely refrain from delinquency and drug use are atypical and, as such, are deserving of scientific scrutiny. Perhaps because they have been impressed by the statistical abnormality of delinquency abstention, some researchers have explained this behavior in terms of the characterological abnormality of abstainers, arguing that abstention may be less the result of positive characteristics (such as strong moral beliefs) than the result of pathological traits that serve to isolate abstainers from their peers. In this study, data from a large survey of adolescents are used to help assess the respective roles of moral beliefs and peer isolation in delinquency abstention. The findings challenge certain previous interpretations of delinquency abstention and shed additional light on the forces that help to sustain adolescent conformity. The findings also raise intriguing questions about the stigma attached to delinquency abstainers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-465
Number of pages33
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes

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