Offense classification and social facilitation in juvenile delinquency

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Linda J. Skitka
Andrea L. Piatt
Timothy U. Ketterson
H. Russell Searight
Cite this article:  Skitka, L., Piatt, A., Ketterson, T., & Searight, H. (1993). Offense classification and social facilitation in juvenile delinquency. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 21(4), 339-346.


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Considerable research has investigated the effects of social facilitation on either positive or neutral behaviors, but little if any research has examined whether the presence of others can lead to greater levels of negative behavior. The purpose of this project was to explore the influence of social facilitation on patterns and severity of offenses committed by juvenile delinquents. Study l compared the severity of crime (as measured by the offense classification) as a function of 130 currently incarcerated juvenile delinquents’ self-reports of whether their crime was committed alone or with others. Results suggested that juveniles tend to act in concert with others in delinquent acts. White females tended to act in concert with others more than African-American female adolescents in the commission of delinquent acts. However, no significant effects were found for social facilitation and severity of crime, even when controlling for MMPI lie scores. Study 2 addressed the same question, but used an archival approach. Data was obtained for criminal charges and whether the crime happened in the presence or absence of others from random sample of 30 records from a juvenile delinquency home. The best predictor of a severity of crime from this sample was the number of people involved with the crime. The study therefore provides limited support for Zajonc’s drive theory that suggests social facilitation can have a nondirectional effect on behavior.

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