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J Youth Adolesc. 2013 Mar;42(3):431-43. doi: 10.1007/s10964-012-9799-y. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Goal setting and self-efficacy among delinquent, at-risk and not at-risk adolescents.

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  • 1School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.


Setting clear achievable goals that enhance self-efficacy and reputational status directs the energies of adolescents into socially conforming or non-conforming activities. This present study investigates the characteristics and relationships between goal setting and self-efficacy among a matched sample of 88 delinquent (18 % female), 97 at-risk (20 % female), and 95 not at-risk adolescents (20 % female). Four hypotheses related to this were tested. Findings revealed that delinquent adolescents reported fewest goals, set fewer challenging goals, had a lower commitment to their goals, and reported lower levels of academic and self-regulatory efficacy than those in the at-risk and not at-risk groups. Discriminant function analysis indicated that adolescents who reported high delinquency goals and low educational and interpersonal goals were likely to belong to the delinquent group, while adolescents who reported high educational and interpersonal goals and low delinquency goals were likely to belong to the not at-risk group. The at-risk and not at-risk groups could not be differentiated. A multinomial logistic regression also revealed that adolescents were more likely to belong to the delinquent group if they reported lower self-regulatory efficacy and lower goal commitment. These findings have important implications for the development of prevention and intervention programs, particularly for those on a trajectory to delinquency. Specifically, programs should focus on assisting adolescents to develop clear self-set achievable goals and support them through the process of attaining them, particularly if the trajectory towards delinquency is to be addressed.

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