Drug abuse, acts of rampage – what’s really the matter with kids today? While there are many places to lay blame – family, attitude, peers, school, community – a new study shows that those risks vary in intensity from kid to kid and can be identified.
Scientists at Washington State University and Pennsylvania State University have found a way to spot the adolescents most susceptible to specific risk factors for delinquency. Breaking down a survey of over 30,000 teens, researchers were able to pinpoint five subgroups and the risks for delinquency that were most relevant for each.
WSU’s Brittany Cooper.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health; the study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The paper was a collaboration between Stephanie Lanza, scientific director, and Bethany Bray, research associate, in the Pennsylvania State University Methodology Center and Brittany Cooper, assistant professor, in the Washington State University department of human development.
Cooper is also a faculty member in WSU’s new program in prevention science. The Ph.D. program is one of the first in the nation focused on developing strategies for drug and alcohol prevention, youth development, obesity prevention and early child care and learning programs.
In the current study, Lanza, Cooper and Bray used an innovative type of statistical analysis to uncover hidden delinquency risk subgroups.
Their analysis focused on the individuals instead of the broad-brush technique normally applied to a general population. Both methods evaluate how factors like family, peers, school or community relate to delinquency.
But the broad-brush analysis, said Cooper, “assumes all adolescents are the same. We don’t believe this is the case and felt that the results would vary for different adolescents. We wanted to fine-tune the approach.”
After analyzing a national sample of more than 30,000 typical 10th-grade boys and girls, Cooper said their intuition paid off when the technique acted as a magnifying glass to zoom in on previously undetected risk subgroups.
Of the five subgroups identified, the smallest—1 percent of the teens—would have been completely overlooked by the broad-brush technique yet accounts for the vast majority of delinquent acts, she said.
“On average, these kids each committed 44 acts of delinquency over the past year,” she said. “This is an extremely high-risk group of kids and the only group where individual antisocial attitudes did not predict delinquency. This was surprising as it usually shows up as a very strong predictive factor.”
“For most kids, there is a normal spike in delinquency during adolescence, but it’s not too serious and they usually grow out of it. For other kids, delinquency seems to take a persistent course … violent behaviors and difficult temperaments show up very early in life and never resolve,” she said. “We’re wondering if the 1 percent might be part of this group.”
Though none of the usual delinquency risk factors stood out for that group, they did clearly define the other subgroups.
The largest—60 percent—could be called the “peer pressure” group. These children were most influenced by peer and individual factors such as antisocial attitudes or socializing with delinquent friends.
Cooper said this confirms past studies and that, for most kids, life-skills training and other school-based programs can be effective in helping them resist peer pressure.
A smaller group—29 percent—included teens who showed widespread risk at the individual, peer, family and school levels.
“This was the only group where family cohesion was an important predictor of delinquency,” Cooper said. “Even if youth in this group are acting out negatively, it’s more about the family system. For these children, we might target strategies toward resolving family conflict issues—such as family-based therapy.”
For 8 percent of the teens, community cohesion factors, such as living in a highly chaotic neighborhood, played the biggest role in delinquency.
“These kids need to feel more connected to the community,” she said. “They need more access to things like basketball tournaments or a safe place to hang out with their friends.”
She said her team’s ultimate goal is to use the study’s nuanced findings to more closely match preventive services, programs and children.
“We have evidence that prevention can have some really impressive long-term benefits,” she said. “Our study takes another step forward by giving hints at what type of intervention might help which type of youth most.
“By targeting resources more efficiently, we can save taxpayer money and hopefully help prevent kids from going down an unhealthy path,” she said.
Brittany Cooper | Eurek Alert!
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Brain connectivity reveals hidden motives
04.03.2016 | Universität Zürich
3D printing revolutionized the manufacturing of complex shapes in the last few years. Using additive depositing of materials, where individual dots or lines...
R2D2, a joint project to analyze and development high-TRL processes and technologies for manufacture of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been successfully completed.
In contrast to point light sources like LEDs made of inorganic semiconductor crystals, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are light-emitting surfaces. Their...
High resolution rotational spectroscopy reveals an unprecedented number of conformations of an odorant molecule – a new world record!
In a recent publication in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter...
Strands of cow cartilage substitute for ink in a 3D bioprinting process that may one day create cartilage patches for worn out joints, according to a team of engineers. "Our goal is to create tissue that can be used to replace large amounts of worn out tissue or design patches," said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Those who have osteoarthritis in their joints suffer a lot. We need a new alternative treatment for this."
Cartilage is a good tissue to target for scale-up bioprinting because it is made up of only one cell type and has no blood vessels within the tissue. It is...
Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.
Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...
28.06.2016 | Event News
09.06.2016 | Event News
24.05.2016 | Event News
29.06.2016 | Life Sciences
29.06.2016 | Earth Sciences
29.06.2016 | Life Sciences