Embeddedness, reflected appraisals, and deterrence: A symbolic interactionist theory of adolescent theft

Ross L. Matsueda, Kate K. O'Neill, Derek A. Kreager

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


This chapter builds on work by Matsueda (1992) by incorporating expected consequences of behavior into a symbolic interactionist theory of reflected appraisals and delinquency. Following Granovetter (1985), we frame the problem of integrating a theory of the self and rational choice as specifying how decisions are embedded in the structure of social relations. We argue that Mead's (1934) theories of the self and role-taking provide a theory of decision-making that incorporates social relations concretely in the social act and abstractly through taking the role of the generalized other. We derive several testable hypotheses from a theory of delinquency based on Mead, and test them using longitudinal survey data from the Denver Youth Survey. Using random-effects negative binomial models for counts of self-reported acts of theft, we find general support for our model: Theft is strongly related to reflected appraisals as a rule violator, as well as to the expected costs and rewards to theft. We also find that the deterrent effect of arrest is weaker for youth who see themselves as rule violators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdentity and Symbolic Interaction
Subtitle of host publicationDeepening Foundations, Building Bridges
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9783030412319
ISBN (Print)9783030412302
StatePublished - Apr 22 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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