Delinquent Behaviors in Late Childhood Can Lead to Crime and Alcohol Use Disorders in Young Adulthood

New research suggests that early intervention and treatment can help reduce crime, alcohol-use disorder, and other risky behaviors among young adults with delinquency problems.

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, looked at the influence of delinquency among more than 800 children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 from low and middle-income backgrounds. Participants were asked to answer questions about delinquency, alcohol use, and sexual activity in late childhood; alcohol use and delinquency in adolescence; and crime, alcohol use disorders, and risky sex behaviors in early adulthood.

The researchers found that youth from low-income families were two times more likely to report having sex by age 11 and participating in delinquent behaviors by age 10 than youth from middle-income families. However, those from middle-income backgrounds were 1.5 times more likely to report drinking alcohol by age 10 than those from low-income families.

Youth that reported early sex, delinquency, and alcohol use in late childhood through adolescence were more likely to report crime, alcohol use disorders, and risky sex in young adulthood.

W. Alex Mason, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said that crime, alcohol use disorders, and risky sex behaviors threaten the health and well-being of young people, and that the behaviors usually start in adolescence. Dr. Mason added that problem behaviors such as delinquency and alcohol use in childhood and adolescence are early warning signs that should be addressed by an intervention so that the behaviors don’t progress.

Source: Science Daily, Disadvantaged Adolescents Prone to Adult Crime and Substance Abuse Problems, Study Finds, August 16, 2010