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Criminological research has largely neglected the possibility that positive peer influence is a potentially powerful source of social control. Criminologists have also been unsuccessful in uncovering the actual mechanisms of peer influence, whether toward or away from deviance. The current trend in the literature is to use quantitative methods to tease out cause, effect, and spuriousness in the relationship between peer delinquency and personal delinquency, but these methods do little or nothing to reveal how and why peers might influence each other toward deviance.
Costello and Hope take a first step toward uncovering the mechanisms of peer influence, drawing on quantitative and qualitative data collected from two convenience samples of university students. Their quantitative analyses showed that positive peer influence occurs most frequently among those who associate with the most deviant peers and self-report the most deviance. These findings have important implications for learning theories' conception of the transmission of deviance. Their qualitative data revealed a variety of methods of negative influence, including overt pressure in the form of ridicule and also encouraging deviant behavior for others' amusement, a motive for peer influence never before reported in the literature.