Literature Review on the relationship of substance use and delinquent behavior
Literature Review on the relationship of substance use and delinquent behavior
October 7, 2007
For years, researchers and criminologist have been studying the reasons why juveniles commit delinquent acts and what factors have led to those delinquent acts. Although there are many different factors for why youth could possibly commit crimes, a major dynamic that has been studied is substance use. Many researchers have looked at not only how substance use, such as alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs, among youth but also other factors that could possible predict juvenile delinquent behaviors. This paper will review research that has been conducted on these issues. Mainly focusing on the two main threads apparent in the review literature which were the types of substances being used by juveniles and how that is related to criminal activity and also other predictors of why juveniles could possible commit crime.
When researchers look at drug use and the effects it has on behavior, one of their focuses is on drug use related to criminal offenses. Research was done focusing on co-occurring problems of mental health and substance abuse look at 155 youth from two detention centers. The results found that 141 had used marijuana prior to incarceration, 146 had used alcohol, 91 had used hallucinogens, 64 had used cocaine and 19 had used some type of inhalant (Potter & Jenson, 2003). That research done by Potter and Jenson (2003) also found that of the most prevalent drugs used, marijuana and alcohol, the average age of initial use was approximately 12 years old (Potter & Jenson, 2003). These results were also related to some found in a previous research.
Research was done in 1999 that looked at the relationship of, specifically, inhalant use and delinquent behavior in youth. The research also took the findings of inhalant users and compared those findings to other drug users. The other drugs that were looked at other than inhalants were cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, designer drugs, marijuana, crack, cocaine, LSD/mushrooms, hallucinogens, PCP, and uppers/downers (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999). The research found that the “number of substances ever used was significantly positively associated with trouble behavior” (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999, pp. 561). Trouble behavior was defined as missing school due to being drunk or on drugs, being suspended from school and getting in trouble at home from drinking or drugs (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999). The research also found that those who experimented with inhalants engaged in more trouble behaviors then those who experimented with other drugs and those who considered themselves actual inhalant users experienced more trouble behavior than those who reported themselves as actual drug users. Also, one very important fact that was found in this research was that the quantity of drugs used was positively correlated with minor criminal activity which was defined using only two variables, having stolen something or vandalized property (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999). This research main focused on the effects on inhalant use but other research has focused on other particular drugs.
The focal point of the proceeding research on marijuana gave more information on the particular effect of marijuana. Specifically, research was done looking at the effects of early marijuana use on late adolescent behavior (Brook, Balka, & Whiteman, 1999). The research found that overall; the early use of marijuana improved the threat of delinquent behavior. The research also found that early use of marijuana increased the likelihood of being addicted to cigarettes, having serious alcohol problems and frequent marijuana use. It also increased the odds of having delinquent peers. These researchers focused on marijuana use in general but other research has been done to look at the frequency of use.
The research done examining frequency looked at not only marijuana, but also alcohol and heroin. This research was done by Marvin P. Dawkins (1997), and related the frequency of drug use to the type of offenses that adolescents were committing. The research found that alcohol compared to marijuana and heroin, was more positively related to criminal offenses with emphasis on violence and serious property crimes (Dawkins, 1997). One important finding of this research was that overall marijuana use seemed to be the most common factor in gang-related violence (Dawkins, 1997). Out of 21 offenses examined, 6 offenses including general trouble with police, alcohol abuse, gang fights, stealing car parts, extortion, and petty theft were all strongly predicted by substance use of alcohol, marijuana and heroin (Dawkins, 1997). This research, as well as other research, examined other aspects of the drug use and delinquency relationship.
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A common thread among the reviewed literature was research that looked at other factors that could possible explain juvenile delinquency. From the research of Dawkins (1997), he also looked at the possibility of criminal history and race as being predictors of adolescent criminal behavior. As mentioned before, the researchers looked at 21 offenses and examined of the three predictors being studied which one was the strongest predictor of that particular offense. Out of those 21 offenses, 12 of them including stealing from a store, stealing something less than fifty dollars, trespassing, causing a serious injury, grand theft auto, using a weapon to commit a crime, vandalism, hitting an instructor or supervisor, running away, arson and fighting with mother, were all strongly predicted by previous criminal history (Dawkins, 1997). When the researcher looked at race as being a predictor of the 21 offenses, only two were regarded as race being the strongest which were problems with parents and fighting with their father (Dawkins, 1997). Other research done has studied other factors that might be thought to contribute to delinquency.
One particular study considered the influence of neighborhood problems, family attachment and importance, being a victim of violence, an individual’s attitude toward violence, having delinquent peers, and minor delinquency as being a factor in serious violent offenses. Of all those predictors, the research found that minor delinquency and victimization were most positively correlated with serious violence (Kuhns, 2005). Also, it found that the individuals attitude towards violence and neighborhood problems were consistent predictors of serious violence (Kuhns, 2005). Since it was a longitudinal study, it was also found that family attachment and importance were stronger in the initial research findings then in the second report. Similar research was done focusing on minor criminal behavior that will be reviewed next.
Also, from the research of Mackesy-Amiti and Fendrich (1999), race and family were looked extensively as predictors of trouble behavior. It found that Blacks and Hispanics stated more trouble behavior than whites and that those whose parents who had less of an education reported more trouble behavior. Subsequently, the research examined sex, gender, age, type of school (public or private), and urbanity as predictors of minor criminal behavior. The results found that,
“Males reported more criminal activity than females, private school students reported more criminal activity than public school students, and urban students reported more criminal activity than rural areas or small cities” (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999).
Also, the research found those who were older reported less criminal activity (Mackesy-Amiti & Fendrich, 1999). This research, as well as other research done examining predictors of criminal activity can be helpful in many ways.
The research done is useful in that it can be helpful to identify those factors that predict the risks of criminal behavior by adolescents and create ways to intervene at earlier ages. Also, if research can identify the strongest predictors of juvenile delinquency, they can create programs that get to the root of the problems the offender has, work to solve those problems, and ultimately reduce recidivism. Given what has been researched already, further research could be beneficial by looking more extensively at the types of drugs and their association with the type of offenses being committed and also, research could look more at the ages at which young people are starting to use drugs, with emphasis on alcohol and marijuana.
Regarding the issues and research that I have reviewed, I am propose a inductive research design that looks at the ages at which youth start using drugs and the types of delinquent acts that are committing. With that, one of my hypothesis that using drugs at an earlier age, specifically alcohol and marijuana, will lead to more future delinquent behavior. The null hypothesis to this is that the age at which drug use is initiated, specifically alcohol and marijuana, has no effect on future delinquency. Another hypothesis I will be considering is that the type of drug and frequency of use has a negative impact on the seriousness of the delinquent act committed. The null hypothesis to that is that the type of drug and frequency of use as no impact on the seriousness of the delinquent act committed. It is important that everyone understands what my definition is of delinquency and substance use to better understand the research being done. For general purposes, I will define delinquency as a act committed by an adolescent that is against the law and I will define substance use as using an type of controlled or illegal drug more than once.
In regard to my sampling procedure, my target population is juveniles in Kent County, Michigan. To eliminate all biases but to make sure to have a big enough sample size, I will use the list of all Kent County public high schools with a population over one thousand. From that list of twelve schools, I will use the random numbers table starting at line one, column one, and randomly select 5 schools to conduct the research on. The five high schools selected using the random numbers table were Kenowa Hills with a population of 1239, Forest Hills Northern with a population of 1006, Ottawa Hills with a population of 1070, East Kentwood with a population of 2022, and Lowell with a population of 1293. The limits of this sample are that it will only be looking at public schools in Kent County so the results will not be generalizable outside of Kent County or for youth that attend private schools. Another problem with this sampling procedure is that I will not be able to receive information from those adolescents who are not in school the day of research or those who have dropped out of school.
Within my sample, I will conduct research that will be administered to all homeroom classes on a specific day. The research method I will be using will be self-report surveys. The surveys will be administered in person by individuals that I hire. This will make the survey completely anonymous which will help to eliminate those youth that may fear getting in trouble for answering questions about their previous substance use and delinquency. Also, a week before the actual survey is administered, I will have consent forms (Appendix A) delivered to the participating homeroom teachers explaining the research, the questions that will be asked and asking for permission from the parents of those who are under the age of 18. The consent form will also offer a ten dollar incentive for those youth who successfully bring back the signed consent form and fill out the survey.
An advantage to this method is that I will be receiving information from the individual which will increase the validity and well as increasing the internal validity through random sampling. Also, using the same instrument, or survey, for all 5 schools is that if the results are consistent, it will increase reliability. Some disadvantages of this research is that students may lie on the survey and also I will not be able to administer the survey to those students who have dropped out or are not present in school.
The risks involved with this research are very minimal. The survey being presented will be anonymous so students will not need to fear any type of punishment. In hopes of participation, as mentioned before, I will also be offering a ten dollar incentive for those who complete the survey. I will not have to apply to an Institutional Review Board because there are no real potential risks involved.
As you will find in Appendix B, the survey will be looking at three key variables including basic demographics, substance use, and delinquency. The questions asked regarding substance use and delinquency will focus on the types and frequencies. As mentioned before, the same survey will be administered in each school so that reliability will not be an issue. Although the validity of my instrument will be unknown since there is the possibility of students lying but hopefully anonymity will increase the likelihood of truthful responses, ultimately increases the validity. A few concerns I have regarding the survey are that some students may be only filling out the survey for the incentive of ten dollars. Also, students who would have been helpful in my research may forget to bring back the consent form signed.
With all research, there are always be validity issues. With my research, one internal validity problem that might occur is the history effect in that students filling out the survey may have forgot how many times they used a drug or what types of delinquent acts they committed. Another internal validity problem that would go right along with history is maturation. The problem might be that student in the high grade levels may have matured throughout high school and may not engaged in delinquent acts or substance use but did when they were younger and have forgotten exact details. Also, with a self-report survey, no one will be available to clarify a questions that the student may not understand which would lead to a problem with the instrumentation affecting internal validity. Of course will research done in a particular area, there is always a threat to external validity. The research I will be conducting will only be generalizable to Kent County. The only way to increase external validity is to repeat the research in similar demographic State Counties.
Total cost of this research as well as a predicted time line can be found in Appendix C.
Appedix A- Consent Form
Dear Parent or Guardian as well as Student,
My name is Kathleen Marsh. I am currently a student at Grand Valley State University. I am planning on conducting research on the substance use of adolescents and their involvement in delinquency. I am requesting you permission to allow your student to fill out a self-report survey I will be administering on (insert date). This research could be very beneficial in the future to developing theories and ways of intervening early enough to warn kids about drugs and criminal behavior. I will also be offering a ten dollar incentive to those students who fill out the survey. The survey will be completely anonymous and will ask questions regarding certain demographics as well as questions about their involvement with drugs, their peer’s involvement with drugs and the frequency of those drug uses. Also I will be asking question regarding their experience with certain delinquent behaviors.
Again this survey is completely anonymous and is for the purpose of developing some theories on why some students are getting involved early in drugs and criminal activity which could ultimately lead to the implementing of programs for young student and adolescents that will keep them away from drugs and criminal activity. I would really appreciate you permission to let you student fill out the survey.
Thank you for your time,
Student at Grand Valley State University
Appendix B- Survey
This survey is completely anonymous. After completion, please return survey to the research consultant available to receive you ten dollars. Thank you for participating.
Demographics: bubble in circle completely
2. Grade Level:
4. Religious Affiliation
Substance Use: answer questions as thoroughly as possible
5. Have you ever drank alcohol?. If no, skip to question 12.
6. How old were you when you first drank alcohol?
7. Have you ever gotten drunk by drinking alcohol? If no, skip to question 10.
8. How many times have you been drunk? If the answer is once skip to question 10.
9. Do you usually prefer to drink liquor, beer, or wine?
10. Do you enjoy drinking alcohol?
11. Have you ever broken the law after drinking, such as driving or any other offenses you were aware of? If so, specify.
12. Have you ever tried marijuana? If no, skip to question 17.
13. How many times have you smoked marijuana?
14. Do you enjoy getting high?
15. How old were you when you first smoked marijuana?
16. Have you ever broken the law after smoking marijuana? If so, specify.
17. Have you ever tried any other type of substance that is considered a drug? If no skip to question 22.
18. What types of drugs have you tried?
19. How old were you when you first tried these drugs?
20. Do you or did you enjoy those types of substances?
21. Have you ever broken the law while using these drugs? If so, specify.
22. Do you have any friends that drink alcohol? If no, skip to question 25.
23. How often do you friends drink alcohol?
24. Do your friend’s peer pressure you into drinking with them?
25. Do you have any friends who use marijuana? If no skip to question 28.
26. How often do your friends use marijuana?
27. Do your friends peer pressure you to use marijuana with them?
28. Do you have any friends who use substances other than alcohol and marijuana? If no, skip to question 32.
29. What types of other drugs do your friends use?
30. How often do you friends use these drugs?
31. Do you friends peer pressure you to use those other drugs with them?
32.Do you have a family member or a person close to you who abuses some type of controlled or illegal substance?
Appendix C- Budget and Timeline
Budget and Timeline
The proposed project will be completed in 10 weeks as outlined below.
January 1, 2008 – March 29, 2008
The following expenses will be necessary for basic functions of this research study:
- Printing and Copying of Survey and Consent Form (estimated at 90% of students receiving each at 7 cents a copy = approx. $420)
- Incentive at $10 a student (at a 80% response rate $10 x 5340=$53,400)
- Salary for five part-time research consultants ($2,000.00 x 5 =$10,000)
- Each consultant will be responsible for administering the survey to all home rooms of selected school.
January 1, 2008
- The research consultants will administer the consent forms to all the homerooms of the random selected school of Kenowa Hills high school.
January 8, 2008
- Research consultants will return to Kenowa Hills high school to collect consent forms and administer the survey.
January 14, 2008
- The research consultants will administer the consent forms to all the homerooms of the random selected school of Forest Hills Northern high school.
January 21, 2008
- Research consultants will return to Forest Hills Northern high school to collect consent forms and administer the survey.
January 28, 2008
- The research consultants will administer the consent forms to all the homerooms of the random selected school of Ottawa high school.
February 4, 2008
- Research consultants will return to Ottawa high school to collect consent forms and administer the survey.
February 11, 2008
- The research consultants will administer the consent forms to all the homerooms of the random selected school of East Kentwood high school.
February 18, 2008
- Research consultants will return to East Kentwood high school to collect consent forms and administer the survey.
February 25, 2008
- The research consultants will administer the consent forms to all the homerooms of the random selected school of Lowell high school.
-Budget and Timeline Continued-
March 3, 2008
- Research consultants will return to Lowell high school to collect consent forms and administer the survey.
This portion of the study will incur the following expenses:
- Print and Copy of Surveys ($420)
- Pay for research consultants ($10,000)
- Incentive Pay ($53,400)
Total approximate expenses for this study = $63,820.00
Brooks, J. S., Balka, E. B., & Whiteman, M. (1999, October). The Risks for Late Adolescence of Early Adolescent Marijuana Use. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1549-1554.
Dawkins, M. P. (1997, June). Drug Use and Violent Crime Among Adolescents. Adolescence, 32, 395-405.
Kuhns III, J. B. (2005, August). The Dynamic Nature of the Drug Use/Serious Violence Relationship: A Multi-Causal Approach. Violence and Victims, 20, 433-454.
Mackesy-Amiti, M., & Fendrich, M. (1999, April). Inhalant use and delinquent behavior among adolescents: a comparison of inhalant users and other drug users. Addiction, 94, 555-564.
Potter, C. C., & Jenson, J. M. (2003, April). Cluster Profiles of Multiple Problem Youth: Mental Health Problem Symptoms, Substance Use, and Delinquent Conduct. Criminal Justice and Behavior , 30, 230-250.