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Delinquency and Substance Use Among Inner-City Students

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: (Summer 1990) Pages: 351-402
Date Published
52 pages

Recent studies continue to find an association between delinquency and substance use, though 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 youth often are concentrated in urban social areas, possibly confounding influence from urbanism and urban socialization. This study examines 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. 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, though 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 has weak explanatory power for the frequency of either behavior, but can 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, 14 notes, 96 references, 2 appendixes. (Author abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 1990