Early Predictors of Juvenile Delinquency: Cognitive or Social?

Emily A. Mann, Wendy T. Miedel and Arthur J. Reynolds


This study investigated the early-childhood academic and social predictors of school- and self-reported delinquency up to age 16. Using data on over 1,000 low-income mostly African American children in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, academic measures included school progress and achievement test scores in kindergarten and first grade. Social measures included teacher ratings of classroom adjustment in kindergarten and first grade. Correlation and regression analysis indicated that positive peer relations in grade 1, classroom compliance in grade 1, and reading achievement in grade 1 were significantly but modestly associated with both school-reported delinquency at age 14 and self- reported arrest at age 16 (above and beyond parent education and intervention participation). Social adjustment indicators were more predictive of delinquency than academic indicators. Findings varied significantly by gender. For girls, classroom compliance and socio-emotional adjustment were associated with lower delinquency. For boys, only peer relations in kindergarten were associated with lower school- reported infractions. In future studies, the school and neighborhood moderators of delinquency.

Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, April 15, 1999