Background: Reckless behaviors (minor theft, substance abuse, and unprotected intercourse) are common during adolescence. Once an adolescent proceeds down a life course characterized by these behaviors, changing direction can be difficult. It is not known which adolescents engaging in reckless behaviors are most at risk for progressing to deviant behaviors (assault, drug dealing, and violent crimes) during emerging adulthood.
Purpose: Guided by the life course theory, the purposes of this research were to better understand the role that peer and parent relationships, and gender have on reckless and deviant behaviors during the time of transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood.
Methods: This quantitative study used Wave I and Wave III data from the Add Health study. The public-use data set comprised one-half of the core sample of adolescents completing the Wave I in-home interview. Wave III respondents were a pool of Wave I adolescents participating in in-home follow-up interviews. The specific variables (adolescent reckless behavior, emerging adult deviant behavior, peer relationships, and parent relationships) were systematically selected from the data set. Confirmatory factor analysis tested relationships between variables and constructs. General estimating equations tested study hypotheses.
Results: Total study sample size was 3,142 males and 3,352 Females. Overall, adolescent reckless behavior was significantly associated with emerging adult deviant behavior (Wald χ² (1, N = 4,615) = 105, p < .001, β = .152, SE(β) = .015), slightly more for females (β = .157, SE(β) = .015) than males (β = .132, SE(β) = .015). Adolescent reckless behavior increases the probability of emerging adult deviant behavior among those adolescents having lower scores on the quality of peer relationships (Wald χ² (1, N = 4,615) = 56, p < .001, β = .062, SE(β) = .008) and the quality of parent relationships (Wald χ² (1, N = 4,545) = 36, p < .001, β = .052, SE(β) = .009) scales.
Implications: Although scholars have hypothesized relationships among adolescent reckless behavior, deviant behavior, gender, and relationships, this was the first study to test and confirm these associations. These results can be used to guide assessment and interventions for adolescents during their transition into adulthood.