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Delinquency and Substance Use Among Inner-City Students

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1990
52 pages
This study examined the distributions of substance use and delinquency among inner-city youths and theoretical explanations of the separate and joint behaviors, controlling through sampling for social area influences.
Recent studies continue to find an association between delinquency and substance use, although the strength and symmetry of the relationship vary according to sampling and measurement strategies. The behaviors often occur jointly, but there is little consensus on whether they are explained by unique factors or are the result of common correlates and social processes. General adolescent samples yield too few serious juvenile offenders for valid assessment of the drug- crime relationship. Moreover, these youths often are concentrated in urban social areas, possibly confounding influences from urbanism and urban socialization. In the current study, survey data on 665 inner-city high school students in four cities revealed that self-reports of delinquency and substance use among inner-city students were comparable with general adolescent populations, although drug use was more prevalent than alcohol for this sample. Serious substance use was more prevalent and frequent among serious delinquents, but substance use was frequent regardless of the severity of delinquent involvement. The type of drug was more strongly associated with delinquency than the frequency of substance use. An integration of social-control and learning theories had weak explanatory power for the frequency of either behavior, but could differentiate serious delinquent involvement. The results suggest that drug use and delinquency are spuriously related and possibly occur among parallel but independent social networks. 7 tables and 96 references

Date Published: January 1, 1990