Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Christopher J. Sullivan, Ph.D.

Keywords

Early assault, Alcohol use, Drug use, Delinquency, Social bonds, Negative emotions, Mediating relationships

Abstract

This study used Agnew's General Strain Theory to examine the relationship between early victimization and deviant behavior, as well as the mediating effects through negative emotions and social bonds. This study draws on developmental psychology literature and general strain literature to develop its hypotheses. Also, it expands the current research in developmental psychology and general strain theory by operationalizing strain as early victimization and using (a) dichotomous measures of alcohol use, drug use, and delinquency, (b) measures of frequency of binge drinking, drug use, and delinquency, (c) and measures of age of first binge drinking and drug use. Data from the National Survey of Adolescents, a cross-sectional national probability sample of 4,023 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, was used to test the hypotheses. Tobit and logistic regression analyses were used to examine the mediating effects of friend and family problems, school problems, and depression and suicidal thoughts. The results show that when youth are sexually or physically assaulted at a young age they have an increased odds of participating in alcohol use, drug use and delinquency, use drugs and binge drink more frequently, are younger when they first take part in drug use and binge drinking, and they participate in more delinquent acts. These relationships were only partially mediated by the presence of friend and family problems, school problems, and depression and suicidal thoughts. These findings indicate early victimization is able to explain participation in alcohol, drugs, and delinquency as well as explain an increase in the frequency of these acts. In addition, early victimization leads to an early age of onset of binge drinking and drug use. These results show support for general strain theory and indicate the importance of examining early strains.

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