Attitudes and Selfcognitions

Through the interaction with group influences, delinquent adolescents develop attitudes, values and self-related cognitions that encourage deviant behaviour. According to Jessor and colleagues (1991), they tolerate, for example, more deviance than other adolescents, place greater value on autonomy, and have less interest in traditional achievement norms. They also have more negative attitudes towards conformist institutions (Hirschi, 1969). At moderate levels, such dispositions may contribute to the mastering of developmental tasks (see adolescence-typical delinquency). However, critical thresholds are passed when adolescents identify exclusively with deviant groups and subcultures. Personal problems are often blamed on the environment, making it harder for self-critical insights to evolve (Averbeck and Losel, 1994). To some extent, this pattern relates to a low self-esteem. However, there is also a subgroup of aggressive youngsters in which the self-concept is not negative but unrealistically positive, fragile, and thus easily challenged (Baumeister, Smart and Boden, 1996; Bushman and Baumeister, 1998).

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