Problem behavior theory posits that tolerance of deviance is an antecedent to antisocial behavior and substance use. In contrast, cognitive dissonance theory implies that acceptability of a behavior may increase after experiencing the behavior. Using structural equation modeling, this investigation tested whether changes in tolerance of deviance precede changes in conduct disorder criteria or substance use or vice versa, or if they change concomitantly. Two-year longitudinal data from 246 8- to 16-year-olds suggested that tolerance of deviance increases after conduct disorder criteria or substance use in 8-to-10- and 11-to-12-year-olds. These results were consistent with cognitive dissonance theory. In 13-to-16-year-olds, no directionality was suggested, consistent with neither theory. These results were replicated in boys and girls and for different types of conduct disorder criteria aggression (covert behavior), deceitfulness and vandalism (overt behavior), and serious rule-breaking (authority conflict). The age-specific directionality between tolerance of deviance and conduct disorder criteria or substance use is consistent with unique etiologies between early onset versus adolescent-onset subtypes of behavior problems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health