Adolescent Social Relationships and the Treatment Process

Findings from Quantitative and Qualitative Analyses

Published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 33., no. 4, 2003, p. 865-896

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2003

by Kara Riehman, Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Jaana Juvonen, Andrew R. Morral

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Juvenile justice systems increasingly rely on placement of substance-involved adolescents in residential group homes. Research finds differences in pathways to drug abuse, but few studies explore whether gender differences affect treatment response. The authors describe the association between girls' and boys' relationship patterns and their experiences in treatment. Data come from a quantitative study of 449 criminally involved adolescents mandated to residential treatment programs throughout Los Angeles, and 30 semi-structured interviews with a similar group of seven boys and three girls attending a residential treatment program. Quantitative data show that girls had more problematic families and peers and reported more depressive symptoms than boys. Qualitative data indicate that girls' pretreatment networks were almost exclusively comprised of older males acting as `protectors and sexual partners, while boys' included same-sex, same-aged peers. Girls emphasized sexuality in their discussions of in-treatment relationships and had difficulty developing friendships with other girls in the program. Our findings highlight gender differences in relationship patterns that merit further study as potentially important influences on adolescents' treatment responses.

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