Peer-Driven Justice: Does Positive Peer Influence Really Work?

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One program that utilizes positive peer influence to redirect delinquent behavior so that participants will not reenter the juvenile justice system is the teen court model. To date, teen court research has not evaluated the impact of positive peer influence or determined whether positive peer influence even exists within these courts. This research not only addresses gaps in criminological, sociological, and teen court theory, it fills a research void concerning the operations of teen courts and their potential impacts. The results of this study also establish a foundation for examining how a neglected but potentially critical dimension of youth’s relationships, positive peers, may both reduce and deter delinquency. This research reports the development and validation of the Teen Court Peer Influence Scale (TCPIS). The TCPIS was disseminated to 404 participants in six teen courts in the state of Florida. The sample was systematically split to form two groups. The first group was used for the exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and the second for the confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Results from these analyses support that positive peer influence is operationalized by three latent constructs, three correlations between factors, and fourteen observed variables. The domains focus on developing positive cognitions, positive identity development, and modeling. The theoretical model derived by the EFA and CFA was a good fit to the data with all fit indices meeting appropriate standards. The reliability for the TCPIS was .88 and the scale showed promising construct, concurrent, and predictive validity using delinquency measures. The results from this study fill conceptual and empirical gaps in teen court research by identifying theoretical mechanisms of positive peer influence. The TCPIS can now be utilized in future teen court research to determine whether specific strategies used by these courts are effective.

Keywords: Teen Courts, Positive Peer Influence
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Scott Smith

Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work, and Addictions, University of North Texas
Denton, Texas, USA

My current work, research, and interests include the following: measurement development (psychometrics); the evaluation of juvenile justice programs, specialized courts, and faith-based programs; adolescent delinquency as it relates to substance abuse, family dynamics, and family involvement; and policy analysis.

Dr. Zach Sneed

Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work, and Addictions, University of North Texas
Denton, Texas, USA

Ref: I08P0136