Investigating the Relationship Between Micro and Macro Levels of Efficacy and Their Effects on Crime

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Ahlin, Eileen M.
Paternoster, Raymond
The concepts of self-efficacy and collective efficacy have both been used by scholars to explain involvement in individual-level crime. Scholars have found that both types of efficacy are related to crime at the individual level. However, little research has examined the relationship between self-efficacy and collective efficacy and its influence on youths' involvement in crime. Using the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) data, this study focuses on the independent influences of self-efficacy and collective efficacy on involvement in crime among youths ages 9 to 19, and examines the potential moderating effect of collective efficacy on the relationship between self-efficacy and crime. The relationship between self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and crime is addressed by asking three questions. First, does a general measure of youth's self-efficacy influence their involvement in crime? Second, does a macro level measure of collective efficacy influence youths' involvement in crime? Third, does collective efficacy moderate the relationship between self-efficacy and crime? To control for the contexts in which youths live and individual-level factors that can influence involvement in crime, and may influence efficacy, neighborhood context, family context, and individual-level demographic variables are also examined. Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling, the analyses indicate mixed support for a relationship between efficacy and individual-level involvement in crime. First, a significant negative relationship exists between self-efficacy and crime. Second, no significant effects emerge between collective efficacy and crime. Third, collective efficacy completely moderates the relationship between self-efficacy and crime, but not in the expected direction. After controlling for collective efficacy, the significant negative relationship between self-efficacy and crime is nullified. The conclusion then is that a general measure of self-efficacy influences a youth's involvement in crime, while a macro level measure of collective efficacy does not. Areas of future research and implications for theory and policy are discussed.