Reflected Appraisals Across Multiple Reference Groups: Discrepancies in Self and Individual Delinquency

Kyle Thomas, Jennifer O'Neill
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We explore the implications of multiple reference groups for symbolic interaction explanations of delinquency. Specifically, we test the idea that dissimilarity in reflected appraisals across reference groups weakens the effect of the appraisals of a single group on behavior. We also assess whether the relative influence of different reflected appraisals is moderated by differences in the amount of time spent in and attachment to the roles taken among specific reference groups. Using data from the National Youth Survey, our findings mostly support symbolic interactionist predictions: Dissimilarity in reference groups' reflected appraisals weakens the influence of a single group's appraisals on behavior. We also found some evidence that, relatively, the more time an individual spends and the more attached they are to a role in a particular reference group, the more strongly correlated the respective appraisals are with delinquent behavior. Contrary to our predictions, we found that relatively strong attachments to one's role with their parents weakens the influence of parental reflected appraisals as a rule violator.



Thomas, K, O'Neill, J. (2021) Reflected Appraisals Across Multiple Reference Groups: Discripancies in Self and Individual Delinquency.  Social Science Research.