Social Development Model Research Paper Starter

Social Development Model

The social development model (SDM) is a theory of human behavior that is used to explain the origins and development of delinquent behavior during childhood and adolescence. By taking into account risk factors as well as protective influences, the SDM predicts whether children will develop prosocial or antisocial behavioral patterns as they age. The SDM is used by criminologists, child psychologists, and educators in order to identify and provide early intervention for children likely to develop antisocial dispositions. Researchers frequently use the SDM in order to carry out studies on adolescent drug and alcohol use, violence, and delinquent behavior. Recently, a number of studies have proven the applicability of the SDM to all children and adolescents in the United States, despite differences in ethnicity or gender.

Keywords Antisocial; Juvenile Delinquency; Prosocial; Protective Influence; Risk Factor; Social Development Model (SDM); Socializing Unit; Socioeconomic Status

Overview

The Social Development Model (SDM) is a theory of human behavior that is used to explain the origins and development of delinquent behavior during childhood and adolescence. By taking into account risk factors as well as protective influences, the SDM predicts whether children will develop prosocial or antisocial behavioral patterns as they age. The SDM hypothesizes that children adopt the beliefs and behavioral patterns of the social unit - such as family, peers, or neighborhood - to which they are most firmly bonded. If the social unit has prosocial attitudes, then the child adopts a prosocial orientation; if the social unit is antisocial, then the child often manifests problem behavior (Catalano, Kosterman, Hawkins, Newcomb, & Abbott, 1996).

The SDM is used by criminologists, child psychologists, and educators in order to identify and provide early intervention for children likely to develop antisocial dispositions. Researchers frequently use the SDM in order to carry out studies on adolescent drug and alcohol use, violence, and delinquent behavior. Several long-term studies that were undertaken during the 1980's and early 1990's have demonstrated the effectiveness of the SDM as a tool for improving children's adoption of prosocial beliefs and behaviors (Kosterman, Hawkins, Spoth, Haggerty & Zhu, 1997; O'Donnell, Michalak & Ames, 1997).

A long-running debate over the applicability of the SDM model to all children and adolescents in the United States across ethnic, gender, and regional differences has been settled in recent years. Numerous studies addressing this issue have provided evidence that the SDM can indeed be applied generally to all youths (Choi, Harachi, Gilmore, & Catalano, 2005; Fleming, Catalano, Oxford, & Harachi et al., 2002).

Applications

Why the Social Development Model Is Useful

There are many reasons why the social development model was initially developed, and why it continues to be such a useful tool for reducing the incidence of childhood behavioral problems, juvenile delinquency, and violent crimes committed by young adults.

Childhood Violence

First, children who begin to use violence in childhood are at a high risk for committing serious violent offenses as adults. This risk diminishes when children first begin to use violence at later ages. For example, one study found 45% of children who took part in violent activities before they were 11 years of age had committed violent criminal offenses by the time they were in their early 20s. Among those children who had begun to use violence when they were between 11 and 12 years of age, only 25% had committed violent criminal offenses by the time they reached their early 20s. An even smaller percentage of children who began to use violence when they were between the ages of 13 and 17 had committed violent criminal offenses by their early 20s (Herrenkohl, Huang, Kosterman, Hawkins, Catalano, & Smith, 2001). Most young adults who commit serious criminal offenses begin to offend at around the age of 10, with their offenses escalating in seriousness gradually until the youths are approximately 17 years of age, at which time peak involvement in delinquent activities usually occurs (Ayers, Williams, Hawkins, Peterson, Catalano, & Abbott, 1999). All of this means that the sooner educational professionals can identify and treat violent or antisocial tendencies in young children, the more effective they will be at lowering the violent crime rate.

Concurrent Behaviors

Secondly, most children who commit delinquent behaviors tend to commit more than one. A child or young person who engages in truancy, for example, is likely to engage in vandalism or substance abuse as well. Moreover, such children are at a higher risk for developing school-related problems (Choi, Harachi, Gilmore, & Catalano, 2005). These facts indicate that the most effective way to deal with children who have behavior problems, as well as with juvenile delinquents, is to target not individual activities, but general antisocial attitudes and behaviors. The SDM allows educational professionals to do this because it traces the roots of the antisocial tendencies that manifest in various delinquent activities.

Chronic Offenders

Third, reducing crime rates among young people means targeting chronic, not isolated offenders. Studies have shown that more than 50% of adolescents living in the United States today participate in antisocial behaviors such as delinquency, violence, substance use and abuse, and risky sexual activity (Choi et al., 2005). Furthermore, most young people take part in a delinquent activity at least once during their adolescence. The average youth's participation in problem behaviors is infrequent and is of short duration, and accordingly accounts for only a small fraction of criminal offenses committed by juveniles. In contrast, more than 50% of all juvenile offenses, and almost all serious, violent crimes, are committed by a tiny minority of young people - between 5 and 10%. Accordingly, efforts to reduce juvenile crime rates should aim to target this 5-10% of youth who become chronic offenders. The SDM is so useful in this respect because it offers the possibility of predicting which youths are at risk of becoming chronic offenders before they even commit their first criminal offense. Valuable prevention and intervention resources could then be used to prevent these particular children from beginning to participate in delinquent activities, or to prevent them from escalating their involvement in these activities if they have already begun to participate in them (Ayers et al., 1999).

Environmental Influences

Finally, location and age both affect the likelihood that youth will manifest antisocial behaviors. While many problem behaviors, such as substance use, are universal problems among adolescents, affecting rural, urban, and suburban adolescents at a relatively constant rate, there are certain risk factors for these behaviors that are directly related to location (Kosterman et al., 1997; O'Donnell, Michalak & Ames, 1997). Sites of urban poverty, for example, usually feature low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization, both of which put children living in such areas at risk for developing antisocial attitudes and behaviors (O'Donnell, Michalak & Ames, 1997). In terms of age, evidence shows that children are particularly vulnerable to initiating or escalating their involvement in problem behaviors during transitional periods, such as the switch from home or pre-school to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle school to high school (Kosterman et al., 1997; Ayers et al., 1999). The SDM addresses these points by predicting how anti-social community influences will affect youths coming from different types of family backgrounds, and at what transitional period points at-risk youth are likely to begin manifesting or escalating their involvement in problem behaviors.

How the Social Development Model Works

The social development model represents a synthesis of the most widely substantiated elements of three different theories used in the field of criminology to explain the etiology of antisocial behavior. It uses elements from control theory to identify factors that cause the development of antisocial behavior; elements from social learning theory to find factors that either encourage or put an end to antisocial behavior; and elements from differential association theory to identify the numerous separate paths that lead to either prosocial or antisocial behavior (Catalano et al., 1996).

Risk

In predicting prosocial and antisocial behavior, the SDM takes into account both risk factors and protective factors. Risk and protective factors can be biological, psychological, or social. Social risk factors occur in various areas of social experience, such as within the family unit, at school, within peer groups, or within a community (Catalano et al., 1996). Socioeconomic status, age, ethnicity and gender all help to determine the types of risk and protective factors to which a child or adolescent will be exposed (Choi et al., 2005). Risk factors increase the probability that a child will become delinquent, while protective factors explain why some children who are at high risk for becoming delinquent fail to do so. Protective factors thus protect high-risk children from risk factors, or lessen the effects of exposure to these factors (Catalano et al., 1996).

Socialization

As its name suggests, the social development model is concerned with socializing processes. According to the SDM,

"Children are socialized through processes involving four constructs: (a) perceived opportunities for involvement in activities and interactions with others, (b) the degree of involvement and interaction, (c) the skills to participate in these involvements and interactions, and (d) the reinforcement they perceive as forthcoming from performance in activities and interactions" (cited in Catalano et al., 1996).

These constructs are ordered casually, meaning that the more opportunities a child perceives for social interactions, the more social interactions that child will participate in. This increase in social interactions causes the child to develop more social skills, which in turn allows the child to perceive more positive reinforcement for participating socially (Fleming, Catalano, Oxford, & Harachi et al., 2002).

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(The entire section is 4635 words.)