The Longitudinal Association Between Substance Use and Delinquency Among High-Risk Youth

Published In: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, v. 93, no. 1-2, Jan. 11, 2008, p. 85-92

Posted on on January 01, 2008

by Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Maria Orlando Edelen, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Andrew R. Morral

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Over the past two decades, studies have provided evidence for the strong link between substance use (SU) and delinquency among adolescents. However, the dynamics of this relationship and its temporal ordering remain unclear. The current study used four waves of data collected from high-risk youth over a 12-month period to examine the temporal association between SU and delinquency. Youth (n = 449) were recruited from the Los Angeles juvenile probation system. The majority of the sample was male (87%), with 43% Hispanic, 16% White, 15% African American, and 26% of participants describing themselves as some other ethnicity. We estimated a series of cross-lagged path models using maximum likelihood estimation and controlled for gender, age, ethnicity, and time spent in a controlled environment during the study period. We estimated models examining the cross-lagged association between SU and drug-related crime, interpersonal crime, and property crime. The temporal relationship between SU and delinquency was similar across the three types of crime, thus we estimated a fourth model examining the relationship between SU and a latent delinquency variable indicated by the three crime scales. Findings indicated that the relationship between SU and delinquency was reciprocal at each time point, suggesting that the reciprocal effects of SU and delinquency appear to be fairly stable over time.

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