Aggressive, rejected, and delinquent children and adolescents: A comparison of their friendships


Research on children and adolescents who engage in antisocial behaviors generally has used three indices: aggression, social rejection, and delinquency. Although research in these indices remains relatively independent of each other, a common focus has been to examine peer influence on antisocial behavior. Further, researchers have been particularly interested in peer influences in the context of friendship, perhaps because friendships are special and voluntary close relationships, which presumably have a major impact on development. However, research on the friendships of children and adolescents who engage in antisocial behavior has not been directly compared across these indices. The present review provides this examination. Although rejected children have fewer friends than aggressive children and delinquent adolescents, friendships with peers who engage in antisocial behaviors were found to increase one's own antisocial status across all three indices. Little is known about the characteristics of rejected and aggressive children's friends, but research has suggested the importance of nonschool friendships and of nonstructured activities for delinquents. Although aggressive and delinquent children were often friends with others who engaged in these behaviors, rejected children perhaps selected friends based not on similarity but on availability, and were often friends with younger or cross-gender peers. Finally, although research examining positive features of aggressive, rejected, and delinquent children's friendship quality reported mixed results, the friendships of children of all three antisocial behavior indices were reported as high in friendship conflict. More research is needed, particularly examining the role of friendships during the transition from childhood antisocial behaviors to delinquency. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Aggression and Violent Behavior