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Drug Use and Delinquent Behavior Among High Risk Youths

NCJ Number
Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: (1997) Pages: 1-25
R Dembo; K Pacheco; J Schmeidler; L Fisher; S Cooper
Date Published
25 pages
This study used self-reports and hair test results to measure substance abuse and delinquency among arrested youth entering a service intervention program.
Young people processed at the Hillsborough County Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) in Florida were stratified by gender, race, and ethnicity before they were randomly selected for the study. Of the study sample, 61 percent were male and averaged 14 years of age, 62 percent were white, 34 percent were black, and 29 percent were Hispanic. Although most young people attended school, many of them experienced educational problems. Young people were arrested for felony property crimes (54 percent) or for property misdemeanor crimes (46 percent). Questions on substance abuse were adopted from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Study results highlighted important relationships among alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine use. Further, significant associations were uncovered between self-reported drug use variables and reported involvement of youth in delinquent behavior during the year preceding their initial interviews. Significant positive relationships were found for hair test results for marijuana and self-reported drug sales and total delinquency and between hair test results for cocaine and self- reported drug sales. Findings document the continuing association between drug use and delinquency among youth entering the juvenile justice system. Research and service implications of the findings are discussed, and additional research is recommended to study longitudinal connections between psychosocial consequences of drug use by young people and their involvement in criminal behavior. 49 references and 9 tables