Are Infants that Grow Up in Recession-Ravaged Homes Likelier to Become Delinquents?

A study recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that children adversely affected by economic downturns as infants may be likelier to engage in delinquent behaviors and substance abuse when they are older adolescents and young adults.

Culling data from 1997’s National Longitudinal Study of Youth, researchers at the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University examined a nationally representative sample of almost 9,000 young people born between 1980 and 1984. According to the study, infants exposed to a 1 percent deviation from regional unemployment rate average were found to have greater odds of using marijuana, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, as well as a greater likelihood than their cohorts of being arrested, affiliating with gangs or engaging in both petty or major theft.

Researchers sought to examine the potential consequences of the 1980 and 1981 to 1982 recessions on adolescents, in particular the possibility that living in an economically-disadvantaged home during the timeframe was likelier to produce a young person involved in substance abuse or criminal activity. In late 1982, the national unemployment rate stood at 10.8 percent - the highest such rate in the United States since the Great Depression.

“The macroeconomic environment during infancy can have serious long-term effects on substance use and delinquent behavior,” the report reads. “These potential long-term effects can play an important role in policy making for adolescent mental health care.”

New Research Examines Long Term Links Between Juvenile Detention and Psychiatric Disorders

A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry finds that, five years after being released from one Illinois juvenile detention center, more than 45 percent of male former detainees, and almost 30 percent of female former detainees, had been diagnosed with at least one psychiatric disorder associated with mental impairment.

The study, conducted by the Northwestern Project with support from the National Institution on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health, examined more than 1,800 detainees, ranging in ages from 10 to 18, at Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. According to researchers, the report is the first longitudinal study to fully track psychiatric disorders in juveniles following release from detention.

Researchers said that half of the center’s former male detainees had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder not associated with impairment, while more than 40 percent of female ex-detainees has been diagnosed with at least one or more disorders not commonly associated with mental impairment. The most common disorders noted were substance abuse issues, with researchers saying the male ex-detainees were two to three times likelier to develop problems with alcohol and illicit drugs than female ex-detainees. Formerly detained females, however, demonstrated a greater risk of developing major depression over the five-year time period, researchers said.

The study indicates that non-Hispanic whites are much more likely to develop substance use disorders than Hispanic or African-American ex-detainees, while researchers noted a much more significant drop in substance abuse numbers among female ex-detainees as they aged than was observed for male ex-detainees.

“Although prevalence rates dropped over time, some disorders were three times more prevalent than in the general population,” lead study author Linda Teplin said in a recent Northwestern University media release.

“These findings demonstrate the need for special programs, especially for substance use disorders, not only while these kids are in corrections but also when they return to the community,” Teplin said.

Child Sex Abuse Could Lead to Psychosis Later in Life

Kids who’ve been sexually abused, particularly if the abuse involved penetration and occurred during early adolescence, are at risk for later developing a psychotic disorder, according to a case-control study done in Australia.

The rate of psychotic and schizophrenic illnesses was significantly higher among those who were sexually abused as children. The rate among 2,759 children who experienced abuse was 2.8 percent compared to the control group, which only had 1.4 percent.

And for the 1,737 cases where penetration occurred, the rate of subsequent psychosis was 3.4%, according to the November Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study, called Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders in a Cohort of Sexually Abused Children, found that these children have increased risks for several health problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Researchers suggest that abused children be provided with ongoing support to maximize their functioning and ease their transition into adulthood.