Violence, older peers, and the socialization of adolescent boys in disadvantaged neighborhoods

Harding, D. J.

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Harding, D. J. (2009). Violence, older peers, and the socialization of adolescent boys in disadvantaged neighborhoods. American sociological review, 74(3), 445-464.

Most theoretical perspectives on neighborhood effects on youth assume that neighborhood context serves as a source of socialization. The exact sources and processes underlying adolescent socialization in disadvantaged neighborhoods, however, are largely unspecified and unelaborated. This article proposes that cross-cohort socialization by older neighborhood peers is one source of socialization for adolescent boys. Data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey suggest that adolescents in disadvantaged neighborhoods are more likely to spend time with older individuals. I analyze qualitative interview data from 60 adolescent boys in three neighborhoods in Boston to understand the causes and consequences of these interactions and relationships. Some of the strategies these adolescents employ to cope with violence in disadvantaged neighborhoods promote interaction with older peers, particularly those who are most disadvantaged. Furthermore, such interactions can expose adolescents to local, unconventional, or alternative cultural models.

Main finding
The author’s argument emphasizes that more advantaged neighborhoods have less cross-age social interaction than disadvantaged neighborhoods. These cross-age interactions can explain the transmission of social phenomenon such as frames regarding schooling or norms about violence. Public spaces are the primary spaces for adolescent socialization due to the way neighborhood “beefs” affect the movement of adolescents. Stoops, corners, and basketball hoops are places where intergenerational socialization is perpetuated.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted 60 in-depth, unstructured interviews with adolescent boys and their parents from three predominantly African American neighborhoods to describe the role older peers play in cross-cohort socialization. The author compares two areas with high-poverty rates to one with a low-poverty rate.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression Gathering/Socializing
Physical types
Geographic locations