The longitudinal associations between substance use, crime, and social risk among emerging adults: A longitudinal within and between-person latent variables analysis

Gabriel J. Merrin, Jordan P. Davis, Daniel Berry, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Tara M. Dumas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background The reciprocal relationship between crime and substance use is well known. However, when examining this relationship, no study to date has disaggregated between- and within-person effects, which represents a more methodologically sound and developmentally-appropriate analytic approach. Further, few studies have considered the role of social risk (e.g., deviant peers, high-risk living situations) in the aforementioned relationship. We examined these associations in a group of individuals with heightened vulnerability to substance use, crime and social risk: emerging adults (aged 18–25 years) in substance use treatment. Methods Participants were 3479 emerging adults who had entered treatment. We used auto-regressive latent growth models with structured residuals (ALT-SR) to examine the within-person cross-lagged association between crime and substance use and whether social risk contributed to this association. A taxonomy of nested models was used to determine the structural form of the data, within-person cross-lagged associations, and between-person associations. Results In contrast to the extant literature on cross-lagged relations between crime and substance use, we found little evidence of such relations once between- and within-person relations were plausibly disaggregated. Yet, our results indicated that within-person increases in social risk were predictive of subsequent increases in crime and substance use. Post-hoc analyses revealed a mediation effect of social risk between crime and substance use. Conclusions Findings suggest the need to re-think the association between crime and substance use among emerging adults. Individuals that remain connected to high-risk social environments after finishing treatment may represent a group that could use more specialized, tailored treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume165
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Criminal behavior
  • Delinquency
  • Latent growth
  • Substance use
  • Substance use treatment

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