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Number of births per 1, females aged 15— Trends are similar for the percentage of high school students who have had sexual intercourse, had three or more partners, and report not using condoms. There has been a slow decline followed by a plateau, but researchers have not yet identified the reason for the plateau, Jaccard explained. The prevalence of sexual activity increases by about 10 percent in each year of the adolescent period, with about 12 percent of 7th graders reporting having had sexual intercourse, while the figure is more than 60 percent for 12th graders.

The peak age for reported first sexual intercourse is Again, there are subgroup differences: Hispanic adolescents start out with lower rates than other groups and then show a big jump in 8th grade, for example. Rates of condom use are lowest in middle school. Young people also report increasing numbers of casual sexual partners with each grade, accelerating after 8th grade; the pattern is similar for pregnancies.

All of these factors suggest to Jaccard that the optimal time for intervention is in early middle school, even though most of the research focuses on high school—age adolescents. That view is reinforced by data showing declines in some of the factors that help protect teenagers that are accompanied by the increase in risk behaviors. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health called Add Health show, for example, that the number of domains in which parents allow their adolescent children to make their own decisions increases steadily from 7th through 12th grade, as parental monitoring decreases Guilamo-Ramos et al.

Thus, older teenagers generally have more freedom to explore behaviors of which their parents may not approve. From middle school through high school, adolescents perceive their parents as being less warm and affectionate as they get older, and they are also less likely to say that they feel a part of their schools and communities. He noted that researchers have proposed more than possible variables, and the findings are inconsistent. Some studies found that self-esteem is predictive of particular behaviors, and others found that it is not.

Some found ethnic differences, and others did not Jaccard, What is missing is a framework that could integrate thinking about the most important explanatory variables such as personality, mental health, substance use, attitudes, cultural norms, and self-efficacy , contextual factors, such as school and family, as well as the theoretical contributions from biobehavioral research and other fields.

This integrated approach would be the platform from which to consider ways to change adolescent behavior. Substance use in adolescence encompasses a fairly wide range of behaviors, Laurie Chassin explained. Adolescents vary in what they imbibe, how much, and how frequently, as well as in the extent to which their substance use causes problems. There are also different stages of adolescent substance use, beginning with initiation or experimentation, in which the largest percentage engages. For some, this escalates to regular use, then to heavy or problem use.

For most adolescents, substance use is reduced or stopped in early young adulthood, but for others heavy use in adolescence is the beginning of multiple cycles of cessation and relapse. These variations in behavior are the key to understanding the primary differences between adolescent and adult substance use, Chassin added. Adolescents, for example, are most likely to try or use multiple different substances, which may complicate analysis, while adults more typically use just one or two.

Adults are also more likely to imbibe small quantities on more frequent occasions, whereas many adolescents are engaged in a binging pattern, in which they take in very large quantities on fewer occasions. Although for adolescents the occasions may be less frequent, the high quantity means that for them the risks for a variety of consequences are much greater. Figure presents data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health demonstrating this difference. Compared to adults, adolescents drink less frequently but in higher quantity. Reproduced with permission more The term disorder also refers to substance dependence, in which the individual uses the substance compulsively despite loss of control and recurring life problems, may develop a tolerance i.

Currently, these disorders are treated separately in the DSM, Chassin explained, yet they also represent points on a continuum of behaviors. Another issue in diagnosis is the question of how well criteria developed for adults work in the diagnosis of adolescents. Adolescents and adults, for example, may develop tolerance to particular substances at different rates, and so they may need to be considered differently in diagnosis. Similarly, adolescents may show symptoms of disorder at lower levels of intake than adults. Questions about diagnosis guidelines also relate to questions about the best targets for intervention.

Would it make more sense to intervene only with adolescents who are showing signs of dysfunction related to substance use?


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A look at some of the data on adolescent substance use provides some context for thinking about these questions. Table shows the percentages of young people who have experimented with substances including alcohol, illicit drugs, and also misuse of prescription drugs by the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. Use has fluctuated over time, as Figure shows. Trends in annual prevalence of an illicit drug use index: Grades 8, 10, and Recent data on specific substances show some differences, however.

Use of marijuana, amphetamines, Ritalin, methamphetamines, crystal methamphetamines, and steroids are declining, for example, whereas use of cocaine, crack, LSD, other hallucinogens, most prescription drugs sedatives, OxyContin, Vicodin , and cough syrup is unchanged. Use of alcohol and cigarettes is also steady, but use of ecstasy is increasing. Chassin cautioned that fluctuations in these data are common, as new drugs emerge and new generations of young people discover old ones. Most substance use among young people does not rise to the level of a clinical problem, but substance use disorders are still a substantial public health problem, as Table shows.

Although researchers have documented demographic variations in substance use, the data can be difficult to interpret, Chassin observed. Some correlations among various demographic factors and substance use are apparent, but there are questions about reporting bias. Much of the data, for example, use school-based samples, and significant differences occur in the rates at which students in different demographic groups drop out of school, so data from those who remain in school are not fully representative.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the problem is not confined to just one or two subgroups, and several differences among subgroups are worth noting. First, children who experience adverse circumstances, such as prenatal exposure to substances, genetic propensity to addiction and disinhibition, and poor parenting, are more likely to have difficulty regulating their behavior, to be impulsive, and to have poor executive functioning.

These children are at heightened risk for school failure, are more likely to be excluded from prosocial peer groups, and to associate with deviant groups that promote substance use.

This influence she described as proneness to deviance. Another influence, which she referred to as negative affect, reflects many factors, including the combination of genetic propensity, temperament, early environmental adversity, and stress that affects some children as they enter adolescence and produces negative affective states. These adolescents are prone to seek out the mood-enhancing potential of substance use. The third influence, or pathway, to risky substance use is the reinforcing properties of many substances themselves, which may reflect individual differences.

Adolescents who are either less sensitive to the negative effects of the substance or who experience greater benefits such as stress reduction have greater incentives to use it. These pathways offer some possible explanations for the patterns in the developmental course of both substance use and substance use disorders. The general pattern is that experimentation begins in early adolescence, with use peaking at the period of transition to adulthood, but there is variation in the age of first use, the speed of progression through the stages, and the persistence of use.

Chassin noted that early experimentation with substances is linked to many other factors associated with heightened risk. Adolescents in families with a history of substance abuse, for example, are more likely to use substances early and to be diagnosed with a clinical disorder.

They are likely to progress to disorder more quickly than other young people, and their substance use is more persistent. These young people are more likely to find the experience pleasant and more likely to have difficulty with developmentally appropriate transition to adult roles. Looking at alcohol specifically, Chassin noted that the younger an individual is at first use of alcohol, the more likely he or she is to develop dependence.

These data strongly suggest to Chassin the value of intervening with young adolescents to prevent or reduce substance use, although a number of questions still need to be resolved. It is not clear whether early onset of substance use is simply a marker for other risk factors. Adolescents may be more vulnerable than adults to the physical effects of substances, and it is not known whether early substance use affects subsequent psychosocial and physical development.

As with both sexual behavior and substance use, the illegal behavior adolescents engage in encompasses a wide range of acts, as D. Some behavior is illegal delinquent only if it is done by an individual below a certain age, and even those behaviors vary a great deal in their seriousness.

The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking: Workshop Report.

He also pointed out overlap with the other risk behaviors. Some sexual activity, for example, is illegal because of the ages of the participants, and of course alcohol use is illegal only under a particular age.


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Osgood focused on more serious crimes that do not fall into those categories. Law enforcement agencies in the U.

Using such data, the Monitoring the Future survey Johnston et al. Osgood noted, however, if one uses a long enough list of offenses and a long period of time, that figure could increase to 90 percent because it is the unusual adolescent who never engages in any illegal act—not consuming a single alcoholic drink before age 21, for example, or ever engaging in a prank that results in property damage.

Arrest rates are much lower, totaling 6. As these data suggest, the most serious and frequent involvement in illegal behavior is concentrated among a small percentage of adolescents. In a study of youth in Philadelphia, for example, Wolfgang and colleagues found that 6 percent of young men had been arrested five or more times, and that group accounted for more than 50 percent of all arrests among the approximately 10, adolescents studied and an even larger share of serious violent crimes. In sum, prevalence of at least some illegal behavior is quite common, but frequent and serious illegal behavior is highly concentrated in a small group.

Generally, approximately 25 percent are released and a little more than half are put on probation. Based on data from , Osgood estimates that approximately , young people are incarcerated in juvenile correctional facilities at any given time approximately another 4, have gone through adult courts and are imprisoned. Historical trends in juvenile crime differ by type of crime, as Figures and show. For example, burglary declined steadily from through , whereas overall property crime was steady from through the mids and then declined and violence sharply rose and then declined from through about Osgood noted that some parallels occur in trends across offenses, such as the broad declines starting in the mids, but there is no overall trend for risk-taking behavior.

Osgood suggested that trends for specific behaviors can be subject to idiosyncratic influences, such as burglary becoming more dangerous over time as increasing numbers of householders have acquired burglar alarms and firearms. Analysis of arrest data from the FBI and population data from the U. Historical trends can vary greatly by offense. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and more The peak age for arrests across the life span is about 16, although it varies slightly with the type of crime. Figure shows the pattern. Osgood noted that self-report data from the National Youth Survey 3 about involvement with violent crime show a similar pattern, with the peak slightly higher, at age Describing the developmental course of illegal behavior is complicated for a few reasons, however.

Deviants: All-encompassing answers to why normal people have abnormal sex. by Charles Martin

First, some of the behaviors in question are interpreted differently in different contexts and at different ages. It is not generally disturbing to see young children take objects or physically interfere with other children. By the mid-teen years, however, most children have long outgrown such behaviors, and those who have not are capable of committing more harmful versions of these acts, which can lead authorities to identify them as delinquent. In general, socialization processes succeed in eliminating these behaviors in most children, but even some toddlers may exhibit behavior that is out of the norm and cause for concern.

Arrests per , by age, Data from UCR arrest data and current population data from U. Osgood explained that individual differences in behavior are relatively stable over the life course and that an early onset of delinquent behavior tends to be associated with serious, long-term illegal offending.

However, although it is rare to see a serious adult offender who had not been involved in delinquent behavior as an adolescent, the reverse is not also true. That is, many adolescents who get into serious trouble move away from it in adulthood. The important question, for Osgood, is identifying processes and experiences that lead some to stop serious illegal behavior when others do not. Rates of illegal behavior based on arrest reports differ quite clearly in relation to some demographic variables including age, as just discussed , and less so in relation to others.