News Release

Disadvantaged adolescents prone to adult crime and substance abuse problems

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Boys Town, NE—August 16, 2010— A new article published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry concludes that early intervention among young adolescents with delinquency problems may help prevent the development of long-term crime, alcohol use disorders (AUDs), and risky sex behaviors, especially among disadvantaged youth.

The study examined the influence of delinquency behavior in late childhood development among over 800 youth from low- compared to middle-income backgrounds, ages 10 to age 24. The adolescent and young adult subjects were asked to complete self-report assessments which included questions on delinquent involvement, alcohol use, and sexual activity in late childhood; delinquency and alcohol use in adolescence; and crime, AUDs, and risky sex in early adulthood.

Youth from low-income backgrounds were twice as likely to report early sex onset (by age 11) and more likely to report early delinquency (by age 10) than those from middle-income backgrounds. By contrast, youth from middle-income backgrounds were 1.5 times more likely to report early alcohol use (by age 10) than those from low-income backgrounds. Furthermore, those that showed early and frequent involvement with risky sex, delinquency, and alcohol use beginning in late childhood and extending throughout adolescence showed an increase in long-term crime, alcohol use disorders (AUDs), and risky sex behaviors in young adulthood.

W. Alex Mason, Ph.D., lead author of the study: "Crime, alcohol use disorders, and risky sex are common among young adults, especially those from low-income backgrounds. These problems are costly to address, they decrease the health and well‐being of young people, and usually begin during young adolescence. We wanted understand how problem behaviors, such as delinquency and alcohol use, in childhood and adolescence lead to young adult crime, alcohol use disorders, and risky sex. These outcomes can help identify early warning signs and can lead to the development of interventions designed to keep early behaviors from progressing to more advanced problems."


This study is published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

To view the abstract for this article, please visit

Article: "Growth in Adolescent Delinquency and Alcohol Use in Relation to Young Adult Crime, Alcohol Use Disorders, and Risky Sex: A Comparison of Youth from Low-Versus Middle-Income Backgrounds." W. Alex Mason, et. al. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP); Published Online: July 26, 2010 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02292.x).

W. Alex Mason, Ph.D. is Associate Director of the National Research Institute for Child and Family Studies for the non-profit organization Boys Town. Mason has over 10 years post-graduate experience in longitudinal research, adolescent and young adult development and problem behaviors, and prevention and has published numerous articles in peer reviewed journals and presented widely on these subjects. He can be reached for questions at

About the Journal: The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP) is internationally recognised to be the leading journal covering both child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry. Articles published include experimental and developmental studies, especially those relating to developmental psychopathology and the developmental disorders. An important function of JCPP is to bring together empirical research, clinical studies and reviews of high quality arising from different points of view. JCPP also features a yearly special issue.

About The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health: The Association is a learned Society managed by an elected Board within a Constitution accepted by the membership. The Objects of the Association are the scientific study of all matters concerning the mental health and development of children through the medium of meetings, academic initiatives and publications - the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and the ACAMH Occasional Papers series - in which scientific matters can be discussed, and clinical findings, research projects and results can be published. The Association is multi-disciplinary in nature, and exists to further all aspects of child and adolescent mental health. Membership of the Association does not confer professional status on any individual. For further information, please visit

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