Role-Taking, Role Commitment, and Delinquency: A Theory of Differential Social Control
This paper builds on a symbolic interactionist theory of delinquency that identifies the locus of social control in the process of taking the role of the other. According to structural symbolic interactionism, role-taking is linked to the broader social organization through the concepts of generalized others, role commitments, and reference groups. We specify mechanisms affecting delinquency derived from the classical theories of labeling and differential association as special cases of this symbolic interactionist perspective. In contrast, social disorganization and social control theories contradict the assumptions of interactionism and provide a competing set of hypotheses. We translate these hypotheses into a covariance structure model of individual delinquency, and estimate it using panel data from a national sample of males. Our results support the symbolic interactionist perspective: Delinquency is affected by the elements of role-taking--associating with delinquent peers, having delinquent reflected appraisals, and holding delinquent attitudes. Moreover, contrary to social disorganization and social control theories, variables representing social disorganization, attachment, and commitment affect delinquency only indirectly through the differential social control process of role-taking.