Author ORCID Identifier

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Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Albert Farrell, PhD


Having friends who engage in problem behavior (i.e., aggression, substance use, delinquency) has consistently been linked to adolescents’ own engagement in problem behavior. There are, however, several key gaps in the literature on peer influence. Few studies have considered the influence of friends’ prosocial behavior and there has been limited research to identify promotive factors that influence urban youths’ affiliation with peers who engage in problem and prosocial behavior across early adolescence, a time of heightened susceptibility to peer influence. The purpose of this study was to identify modifiable promotive factors that reduce adolescents’ problem behavior by decreasing exposure to friends’ delinquent behavior and promoting affiliation with peers who engage in prosocial behavior. Specifically, the promotive effects of a positive future orientation, the presence of a caring adult, and child disclosure were examined given prior evidence of relations between these factors, peer affiliation, and problem behavior. Analyses were conducted on four waves of longitudinal data collected within the same year from 2,710 students attending three urban middle schools (Mage = 12.3; 52% female) who participated in an efficacy trial of a bullying prevention program. Seventy nine percent of participants identified as Black/African American (including 6% who endorsed one or more other racial identities). One-sided cross-lagged mediation analyses found support for friends’ delinquent behavior as a mediator of longitudinal relations between child disclosure and changes in physical aggression, substance use, and delinquency. Similar effects were not found for positive future orientation or presence of a caring adult. Friends’ prosocial behavior did not significantly mediate longitudinal relations between promotive factors and adolescent problem behavior. Findings suggest prevention efforts should enhance adolescents’ communication with their parents about their activities and whereabouts to disrupt peer influence dynamics and reduce problem behavior during early adolescence. Additional implications for theory and prevention efforts relevant to the positive development of youth in urban low-income communities are discussed.


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