The economic environment during infancy may be associated with subsequent substance use and delinquent behavior during adolescence, according to new research.
A research team led by Seethalakshmi Ramanathan of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University examined the relationship between the high unemployment rates during and after the 1980 and 1981-1982 recession, and rates of subsequent adolescent substance use and delinquent behaviors.
Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which included a group of 8,984 adolescents born between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 1984.
“The results demonstrate a strong correlation between the unemployment rate during infancy and subsequent behavioral problems,” the researchers said in the study.
“This finding suggests that unfavorable economic conditions during infancy may create circumstances that can affect the psychological development of the infant and lead to the development of behavioral problems in adolescence.”
According to the study results, exposure to a 1 percent 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), smoking (1.07), alcohol use (1.06), arrest (1.17), gang affiliation (1.09), and petty (1.06) and major theft (1.11).
No significant associations were noted with the use of hard drugs and assault behavior, the results indicate.
“Although the past does not necessarily predict the future, it provides important lessons,” the researchers said. “Our findings suggest an important static risk factor that mental health professionals may want to take into account when dealing with children exposed to the current economic crisis.”
The study appears in the journal Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry.
Source: JAMA and Archives Journals