Asian Journal of Criminology

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 3–22 | Cite as

Peer Reactions, Peer Behavior, Student Attitudes, and Student Deviance: a Comparison of College Students in Japan and the USA

  • Emiko KobayashiEmail author
  • David P. Farrington
  • Molly Buchanan


This study presents evidence on the cross-cultural generalizability of differential association/social learning theory by testing whether the causal processes of learning attitudes toward deviance, posited by the theory, are equally applicable, and the causal links, specified by the theory, are equally strong in two diverse cultures—the USA and Japan. Drawing on the literature concerning cultural variability in individualism-collectivism, we predicted that the effects of peer reactions to deviance and peer deviance on a person’s attitudes toward deviance should be stronger in Japan than in the USA, and that the mediating effect of a person’s attitudes on the relationship of peer reactions and peer deviance to a person’s deviance should be weaker among Japanese than among Americans. Analyses of comparable survey data from college students in the USA (N = 625) and Japan (N = 591) provide generally supportive, but somewhat mixed, evidence regarding our predictions. In both countries, peer reactions to deviance predicted student attitudes toward deviance more strongly than did peer deviance. Peer deviance strongly predicted student deviance, while peer reactions to deviance predicted less strongly, and the effects were mediated by student attitudes in both countries. Contrary to the hypotheses, peer reactions and peer deviance did not predict student attitudes more strongly in Japan than in the USA. Also, peer deviance predicted student deviance more strongly in the USA than in Japan. In agreement with the expectations, the relation between student attitudes and student deviance was stronger in the USA than in Japan.


USA-Japan comparison Peer reactions Peer behavior Student attitudes Student deviance 



We wish to thank Marvin D. Krohn for his comments on the manuscript and his contribution to the data collection in the USA. We are also appreciative of the generosity of Ronald L. Akers in sharing the questionnaire used for the Boys Town Study. Additionally, we are grateful for the suggestions and insights on earlier versions of the manuscript from Harold G. Grasmick.


The research reported here was supported by the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 17K04095) from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Compliance

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emiko Kobayashi
    • 1
    Email author
  • David P. Farrington
    • 2
  • Molly Buchanan
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Liberal Arts and SciencesKanazawa UniversityKanazawaJapan
  2. 2.Institute of CriminologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.School of Social and Behavioral SciencesMarist CollegePoughkeepsieUSA

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