Are “Recession Babies” More Likely to Enter the Criminal Justice System?
Date:  01-04-2013

New report indicates that children of recessions in the 1980’s have a higher incidence of substance abuse issues and arrests
Shine, which Yahoo identifies as “the latest tips on healthy living and eating in our women's lifestyle blogs” posted a blog on January 2, 2013 that will cause professionals in the criminal justice field to take notice. Written by Shine Senior Editor Lylah M. Alphonse, Do Recession Babies Grow Up to be Troubled Teens, claims that children born during the recessions of the 1980’s were more likely to have substance abuse issues and also have a higher arrest rate.

Alphonse’s blog was based on a report Macroeconomic Environment During Infancy as a Possible Risk Factor for Adolescent Behavioral roblems,authored by Seethalakshmi Ramanathan, MBBS, DPM, Natarajan Balasubramanian, PhD; and Rajeev Krishnadas, MBBS, MRCPsych., and published online by JAMA Network on December 31, 2012. The report can be read by JAMA Network subscribers click here to go to website.

The following is the abstract from the report:

  • Contex: Economic difficulties at the individual level can lead to a number of behavioral problems, including substance abuse and delinquent behavior.

  • Objective To examine the influence of a nationwide adverse economic environment during infancy, specifically, the high unemployment rates during and after the 1980 and 1981-1982 recessions, on rates of subsequent adolescent substance use and delinquent behaviors.

  • Design We used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and estimated logit regressions to examine the effect of changes in unemployment rates during infancy on the incidence of adolescent behavioral problems, controlling for known youth, family, and environmental risk factors.

  • Setting Adolescents living in the United States in 1997.

  • Participants Nationally representative sample of 8984 adolescents born from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1984.

  • Main Outcome Measures Probability of engaging in substance use (marijuana, smoking, alcohol, and hard [ie, illegal] drugs) and delinquent behaviors (arrest, handgun use, gang affiliation, petty and major theft, property destruction, and assaultive behavior).

  • Results Exposure to a 1% deviation from mean regional unemployment rates at the age of 1 year was associated with an increase in the odds ratios of engaging in marijuana use (1.09 [95% CI, 1.04-1.14]), smoking (1.07 [1.03-1.11]), alcohol use (1.06 [1.02-1.10]), arrest (1.17 [1.09-1.25]), gang affiliation (1.09 [1.00-1.19]), and petty (1.06 [1.01-1.10]) and major theft (1.11 [1.05-1.18]). No significant associations were noted with use of hard drugs, property destruction, and assaultive behavior.

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

    Alphonse‘s blog reports evidence of a slight increase in criminal activity among teens who were born or raised during the recessions of the ‘80’s, but claims the jury is still out on whether children born during the latest recession will share the same fate.
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