Individuals are far more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour during adolescence than any other period of their life. This paper presents selected results from two studies which used secondary data analysis to provide a theoretically informed picture of youths’ decision-making process in relation to delinquency.
Study 1 focused on changes in adolescents’ perceived rewards and delinquency involvement over four years. Results showed that high levels of perceived rewards go hand in hand with high levels of delinquency, but perceived antisocial rewards ‘topped out’ by age 14, suggesting that the best time to intervene is during early adolescence or late childhood.
Study 2 focused on anger control. Youth who were highly delinquency-involved were especially likely to report surges in anger on days when they experienced a stressor, pointing to a need for delinquency prevention programs aimed at emotion control, including cognitive reappraisal. Improving these skills should enhance youths’ ability to navigate risk during the teenage years.