Crime & Justice Policy

Socially Demoralizing Environments and the Development of the Street Code from Childhood to Emerging Adulthood

Berg, M.T.; Lei, M.K.; Simons, R.L.
Feb-08-2021

Abstract

Objectives

This study examines hypotheses regarding patterns of developmental change in street code commitment from childhood through emerging adulthood. It tests whether street code commitment demonstrates developmental stability or if it fluctuates in response to evolving socially demoralizing conditions.

Methods

Latent growth curve and parallel process models are applied to longitudinal data from an African American sample. Confirmatory factor analysis tests the degree to which neighborhood violence, peer processes, and family hostilities combine to form a latent construct of socially demoralizing environments. Analysis also tests measurement invariance across the study assessment periods.

Results

Street code commitment demonstrates a non-linear growth pattern across time. Commitment increases in childhood, peaks in late adolescence, and declines in emerging adulthood. Exposure to demoralizing social environments demonstrates a similar pattern of change characterized by a peak in adolescence followed by a gradual decline. Harsh childhood social environments affect the initial levels but not the growth of the street code. Street code commitment fluctuates in response to contemporaneous environmental conditions.

Conclusion

The street code is malleable from childhood through emerging adulthood. Commitment to the street code is not a stable product of socialization or early childhood social environmental exposures. The degree to which individuals embrace the code is largely a function of their current social environment.