The Relevance of the Dual Systems Model for Predicting Offending Among College Students: The Moderating Role of Deviant Peer Influence

Date01 September 2022
AuthorThomas Wojciechowski
Published date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
The Relevance of the Dual
Systems Model for Predicting
Offending Among College
Students: The Moderating Role
of Deviant Peer Influence
Thomas Wojciechowski
Past research as indicated the relevance of the dual systems model for understanding offending.
However, there is a dearth of research focused on how deviant peer influence may condition the
relationships between dual systems constructs (impulsivity and sensation seeking) and offending. The
present study utilized data from 248 undergraduate students to better understand these relation-
ships. A series of logistic regression models first examined the direct effects of these three con-
structs and then predicted interactions. Deviant peer influence interacted significantly with both dual
systems constructs, indicating that the greatest risk of offending was observed among participants
reporting high levels of all of these constructs. Sensitivity analyses indicated that the impulsivity
interaction may be more relevant. This indicates the importance of screening college students in
psychosocial domains upon entrance into college and providing opportunities for mentorship among
those who may be at high risk of offending.
quantitative methods, other, individual theories of crime causation, crime/delinquency theory,
structural theories of crime causation, crime/delinquency theory
The dual systems model has risentoprominenceasanimportantexplanatory framework for
understanding engagement in risky behavior among adolescents (Ellingson et al., 2019; Rhyner
et al., 2018; Steinberg et al., 2008; Steinberg, 2010; Wasserman et al., 2017). This model delineates
sensation seeking and impulsivity as major constructs of interest for understanding why it is that
engagement in numerous risky behaviors peaks in adolescence. Offending is one of these behaviors
which past research has found that the dual systems model may help to explain (Burt et al., 2014;
Forrest et al., 2019). While this exis ting research has provided a genera l understanding of the
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Thomas Wojciechowski, Michigan State University, 655 Auditorium Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Criminal Justice Review
ª2021 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/07340168211036934
2022, Vol. 47(3) 318–333
relationships and processes involved, there remain numerous gaps in knowledge in this area.
Another construct that past research has identified as a relevant risk factor for offending is one’s
degree of deviant influence stemming from peers. Research has indicated that greater involvement
with peers who offend is associated with increased risk of one’s own offending (Cutr´ın et al., 2018;
Hinnant et al., 2016; Wojciechowski, 2018). One area where research on duals systems constructs
has remained understudied is the relevance of deviant peer influence for conditioning the relation-
ships between sensation seeking and impulsivity. It may be that the effects of both of these con-
structs on offending are exacerbated at elevated levels of deviant peer influence. The present study
sought to address this gap in the literature by examining the effects of impulsivity and risk-seeking
on offending risk and the relevance of deviant peer influence for moderating these relationships
among a sample of undergraduate students.
The Dual Systems Model of Adolescent Risk-Taking
The dual systems model has demonstrated a great deal of relevance for the field of criminology in
recent years. In the past, the major model for explaining offending in this area of the discipline was
self-control theory (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). This framework made several important assump-
tions about risk-taking behavior. First, it was assumed that offending could be explained by the
unidimensional construct of self-control. Second, it was assumed that self-control was generally
established early in life and demonstrated little to no development following childhood. While a
great deal of research provided support for self-control theory (Pratt & Cullen, 2000; Rocque &
Piquero, 2019; Vazsonyi et al., 2017), the dual systems model challenges both of these assumptions
and has also found support since its inception. Essentially, the dual systems model delineates this
concept of self-control into the two dimensions of sensation seeking and impulsivity. Sensation
seeking refers to the degree to which an individual desires and seeks out novel and thrilling
experiences. Impulsivity refers to the degree to which an individual is able to control engagement
in behaviors despite knowing the potential risk involved. If someone has a low degree of impulse
control, they will simply disregard consequences of actions or will engage in said actions without
thinking. Past research has indicated that both constructs demonstrate the relevance for predicting
offending independently (Burt et al., 2014; Forrest et al., 2019), providing criterion validity for
delineation of self-control into a bidimensional construct. In the highlighted ways, the dual systems
model presents an extension beyond the assumptions of self-control theory. While this was not the
explicit intent of the framework, the dual systems model is gaining traction in the field of crimin-
ology as an updated understanding of how self-control impacts offending risk. Evidence presented
by the theory favors the developmental approach to understanding these concepts compared to the
assumptions of self-control theory regarding stability in self-control. Further, while self-c ontrol
theory posits self-control as being mostly consistent with the concept of impulse control, the addition
of sensation seeking provides additional nuance for understanding engagement in risky behavior.
The dual systems model also challenges the assumption that these constructs remain invariant
across time following child hood. Rather, both construc ts demonstrate differenti al development
through adolescence and adulthood. This is because different areas of the brain govern each con-
struct, and these brain regions develop at different rates and times. The socioemotional network is
comprised of the dopaminergic system. This system develops rapidly relatively early in adolescence,
and youth experience a high flow of dopamine when engaging in thrilling and fun experiences
(Walsh, 2009). This results in a rewardin g feeling that reinforces the behavior, re sulting in an
increased likelihood of repeat engagement. This is clearly related to sensation seeking, as these
individuals develop the desire to seek out these thrilling experiences. Research has indicated that
typical development peaks in mid-to-late adolescenc e and plateaus thereafter (Steinberg, 2010;
Steinberg et al., 2008). In contrast, the prefrontal cortex governs the cognitive control network.

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