Temporal Associations Between Substance Use and Delinquency Among Youth with a First Time Offense

Published In: Addictive Behaviors, v. 39, no. 6, June 2014, p. 1081-1086

Posted on RAND.org on May 19, 2014

by Sarah B. Hunter, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Eric R. Pedersen, Brett Ewing, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

OBJECTIVE: Substance use and delinquency among adolescents have been shown to be positively associated; however, the temporal relationship is not well understood. Examining the association between delinquency and substance use is especially relevant among adolescents with a first-time substance use related offense as they are at-risk for future problems. METHOD: Data from 193 adolescents at time of diversion program entry and six months later was examined using cross-lagged path analysis to determine whether substance use and related consequences were associated with other types of delinquency across time. RESULTS: Results demonstrated that delinquency at program entry was related to subsequent reports of heavy drinking and alcohol consequences, but not marijuana use or its consequences. In contrast, alcohol and marijuana use at program entry were not related to future reports of delinquency. CONCLUSIONS: Findings emphasize the need to build in comprehensive assessments and interventions for youth with a first time offense in order to prevent further escalation of substance use and criminal behaviors.

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