Researchers had long speculated that early-developing girls were nudged into delinquency because they had more older friends, and more male friends.
But, instead, new research suggests that the key factors appear to be the fact that these girls are dating and that they have more friends regardless of age who are already involved in delinquency.
"Girls who develop early aren't any more likely to have male school friends, or older school friends than their less developed counterparts," said Dana Haynie, author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
"But going through puberty early does expose these girls to other social factors that put them at risk for delinquency."
The study appears in the September 2003 issue of the journal Social Forces.
Haynie used data from the ADD Health project, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7 through 12 in 1995 and 1996. Data from a total of 5,477 young girls were included in this study. The girls were asked a variety of questions about their physical development, their participation in delinquency, and their relationships with friends and parents. Their parents and friends were also interviewed.
Overall, as expected, girls who were more physically developed than their peers in the same grade were more likely to be involved in all types of delinquency, from minor to violent.
For example, girls who were highly developed compared to their peers had a 27 percent increase in minor delinquency such as shoplifting and vandalism -- compared to those with average development.
Moreover, girls who were less developed than average showed lower levels of delinquency than those experiencing average pubertal development,
Contact: Dana Haynie
Ohio State University