Seven Years Later

Developmental Transitions and Delinquent Behavior for Male Adolescents Who Received Long-Term Substance Treatment

Published in: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, v. 70. no. 5, Sep. 2009, p. 641-651

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Rajeev Ramchand, Jeremy N. V. Miles

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OBJECTIVE: Few studies have applied the life course perspective to the study of drug use, a noticeable omission in the field. The current study addresses this gap by examining patterns of interpersonal crime, substance use, and emotional problems over 7 years for a sample of 196 high-risk males as they transition from adolescence to young adulthood, with a specific focus on the role of transitions (living alone, employment, marrying or cohabiting with a romantic partner, graduating from high school or acquiring a General Equivalency Diploma, and becoming a parent) on these patterns. METHOD: The authors surveyed youth who were adjudicated as delinquent in Los Angeles between February 1999 and May 2000 and referred by probation officials to Phoenix Academy, a long-term residential substance-treatment provider for adolescent probationers. Males ages 13-17 (N = 196) were given face-to-face interviews at study entry and at 3, 6, 12, 24, 30, 72, and 87 months. RESULTS: Living independently and cohabiting were associated with decreased substance problems. Living with children was associated with increased interpersonal crime. Living away from parents was associated with an increase in substance problems following the transition and then a subsequent decrease in problems over time. No effects were found for receiving a diploma or having employment. CONCLUSIONS: It is crucial to begin to understand how developmental transitions may affect high-risk adolescents' involvement in criminal behavior, substance use, and emotional problems. The current study suggests that several transitions were associated with a reduction in problems as these youth transitioned into young adulthood.

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