Psychological and Sociological Mechanisms Linking Low SES and Antisocial Behavior
Guerra, Roberto Carlos
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Antisocial behavior, both criminal and noncriminal, is a prominent yet poorly understood public health concern. Research on antisocial behavior typically focuses on either individual or environmental risk factors, rarely integrating risks across levels of analysis. Although low objective SES is clearly associated with antisocial behavior, the reasons why are unclear. Sociological theories suggest this relationship is due to neighborhood and environmental characteristics that create social disorganization and reduce informal social controls in the community. On the other hand, psychological theories suggest that elevated levels of psychological distress and psychopathic traits may influence individual risk for antisocial behavior. The purpose of this study was to integrate sociological and psychological models to examine how certain individual and environmental risk factors intersect in predicting antisocial behavior. In a demographically diverse adult male sample (N = 462), environmental (neighborhood distress) and individual (psychological distress) risk factors each mediated the SES – antisocial behavior relationship (as predicted), although findings depended on which definition of SES was used (objective versus subjective). In addition, psychopathic dimensions (specifically, meanness and disinhibition) were observed to exacerbate the effects of neighborhood and psychological distress on antisocial behavior, as hypothesized. Supplemental analyses also considered index variables comprising neighborhood disadvantage. Overall, results of this study help inform psychological and sociological theories of antisocial behavior, and may assist in clarifying potential neighborhood- and individual-level foci for interventions to prevent and reduce antisocial behavior in the community.
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