Childhood adversity and deviant peers: Considering behavioral selection and cultural socialization pathways

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Can childhood adversity affect who your peers are? Studies on deviant peers explain their formation due to school and neighborhood factors, often ignoring the socialization at home. Similarly, studies on childhood ad- versities focus on educational and health outcomes, often ignoring its potential impact on one’s social re- lationships. In an attempt to make these two distinct literatures converse with each other, this research suggests the influence of childhood adversity on associating with deviant peers through behavioral selection and cultural socialization—i.e., how adversity affects anti-social behaviors that impact selecting into deviant peers, and how adversity affects one’s norms that impact being socialized by deviant peers. Performing mediation analysis with the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics (n = 1018), I find that childhood adversity influences deviant peer association, mediated by anti-social behavior and adolescent peer pressure. This suggests that associating with deviant peers can arise from the normalization of nonconformity, behavioral response to toxic stress, and reinforcement from peer socializers.