The reciprocal relations between well-being and maternal and peer warmth in adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system

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INTRODUCTION: Although justice system involvement increases the risk of negative outcomes for adolescents, many justice-involved youth desist from crime as adults (Sampson & Laub, 2005). There are few studies examining predictors of positive development in justice-involved adolescents. In the current study, we assess the influence of maternal and peer warmth on the development of well-being in adolescents involved in the US justice system over the course of 5 years. METHODS: Participants included 1216 adolescent males who experienced their first arrest. Interviews were given every year for 5 years. Well-being was measured using the EPOCH questionnaire (Kern et al., 2016) and relationship warmth was measured using a scale adapted from Conger et al. (1994). Hypotheses were tested using latent curve models with structured residuals. RESULTS: Baseline levels of well-being were associated with maternal (β = 0.49, p < .001) and peer warmth, β = 0.52, p < .001. When an individual's maternal warmth was higher than predicted given their maternal warmth trajectory, their subsequent well-being was higher than expected given their well-being trajectory, b = 0.07, p < .001. When an individual's peer warmth was higher than predicted, their subsequent well-being was higher than expected, b = 0.06, p < .001. These relations were reciprocal, such that well-being also predicted increased maternal and peer warmth. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that increasing maternal or peer warmth may have cascading effects on the well-being of justice-involved adolescents. Interventions for justice-involved youth may benefit from targeting factors that increase positive development for these youth.

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Journal of adolescence

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