The Relationship between Substance Use and Delinquent Behavior

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The current literature review will analyze the hypothesis and research findings utilized amongst previous research studying the relationship between substance use and delinquent behavior amongst adolescents. Additionally, similarities and differences will be highlighted across the studies while utilizing the literature as a basis for insights on the development of future research. Furthermore, methodologies and research design were noted including similarities between sampling and procedures utilized. To conclude the literature review, references will be made regarding differences in gender and confounding factors.

Literature Review

The literature studied in the current review share similar hypotheses, findings, methodologies, and research design. While the findings revealed in each study did not produce the same outcome, most studies had parallel predictions, which led towards a significant correlation between the relationship between substance use and adolescent mental health leading to delinquent behavior. Particularly, the research conducted in Switzerland, which focused on recruiting adolescents from “outpatients care units, closed residencies, general population, leisure centers, and schools” predicted the relationship between adolescent violent behavior and the use of substance, drug, and alcohol use (Bolognini, Plancherel, Winnington, Bernard, Stéphan, and Halfon 2007:561-574). The researchers strategically selected participants from these centers to extrapolate individuals with a higher probability of violent psychopathy, antisocial, and non-delinquent behaviors. This well-rounded participant selection best created the platform to initiate the study’s initial hypothesis. Particularly, Bolognini et al. (2007) presented the hypothesis that adolescents with a higher rate of recurrence in the use of substances, drugs, and alcohol were more likely to be the consequence of violent behavior (561-574). Additionally, Bolognini et al. (2007) believed that participants with violent behavior would result in an earlier onset towards the use of substances, drugs, and alcohol, as opposed to participants with antisocial and non-delinquent behaviors (561-574). Similarly, participants with antisocial behavior were expected to have an earlier onset of substance, drug, and alcohol use.

The same study revealed major findings relating to relationship factors of family, social, psychological, and peer influence; thus, supporting the initial hypothesis. Particularly, the research conducted by Bolognini et al. (2007) supported the relationship between substance use and delinquent behavior by revealing the association between the use of tobacco, cannabis, and other illicit substance was more prevalent amongst violent and antisocial adolescents, as opposed to non-violent and social adolescents (561-574). While the results of this study supported the researcher’s initial hypothesis, the study published by Brunelle, Leclerc, Cousineau, Dufour, Gendron, and Martin (2012) revealed contrary results to their research regarding Internet gambling, substance use, and delinquent behavior and its association with deviant behavior (364-370). While the previous study by Bolognini et al. (2007) constructed their experimental analysis by using a sample of 211 participants, the study administered by Brunelle et al. (2012) utilized a sample of 1,870 participants from six schools in Quebec, Canada. The in-between study design utilized by Brunelle et al. (2012) provided the basis to study each participant across all of the variables included in the experiment. Particularly, all of the participants were exposed to the four (4) questionnaires for each component of the study, such as the socio-demographic data, the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders IV – adapted for juveniles, the screening grid for detection of alcohol and drug problems in adolescents, and the measure of social and personal adaptation for adolescents in Quebec (Brunelle et al. 2012: 364-370). The broad participant sampling selection and the in-between study design method was conducive to the objectives of the current research. Specifically, (1) the non-internet gamblers and Internet gamblers are compared, (2) the differences between the non-gamblers, non-internet gamblers, and Internet gamblers on substance use and the degree of delinquency, and finally, (3) the research searched for verification in the moderation role displayed by the non-Internet gamblers and Internet-gambler categories.

The literature executed by Brunelle et al. (2012) sustained the first two objectives revealing a relationship between a larger diversity in regular gambling behaviors. Specifically, an association between substance abuse and delinquency displayed in Internet gambling adolescents was discovered versus non-Internet gambling adolescents (Brunelle et al. 2012: 364-370). Contrary to the research by Bolognini et al. (2007), the third objective of the research by Brunelle et al. (2012) did not support its initial hypothesis. Specifically, a significant difference demonstrated the moderation role displayed by the non-Internet gamblers and Internet-gamblers is related to the severity across gambling classifications (non-Internet gamblers and Internet gamblers). Nonetheless, similar to the study by Bolognini et al. (2007), the literature concluded by Brunelle et al. (2012) discovered Internet gambling by adolescents is related to a combination of co-occurrent behaviors of deviance and violence (364-370). This co-occurrent behavior can be used as a basis to question whether adolescent drug use leads to violent behavior or whether adolescent violent behavior leads to drug use.

To better examine the relationship between substance use and delinquency behavior, Carney, Myers, Louw, Lombard, and Flisher (2013) and Krohn, Lizotte, and Perez (1997) performed an elaborative experimental cohort and longitudinal analysis. Particularly, Carney et al. (2013) studied adolescent development using the same participants in grades eight (8), ten (10), and twelve (12) (447-455). The dissimilarities between the experiment conducted by Carney et al. (2013) and the previous two studies are prevalent in the thorough and continued follow-up study while separating participants in the subgroups of the South African population (447-455). The subgroups were strategically created to measure the relationships between delinquent-type behavior with that of drug and alcohol use. Similar to the methodology utilized by Brunelle et al. (2012), Carney et al. (2013) also administered questionnaires to quantify risk behaviors, especially those pertaining to the use of “substance, road-related behaviors, violent or delinquent behavior, suicidality, bullying, and sexual behavior” (364-370; 447-455). Results in the current experiment revealed an increase in behavior relating to delinquency throughout the longitude of the experiment, which was divided into three time periods. Specifically, adolescent use of alcohol, drug, and smoking significantly increased throughout the three stages, which were eight (8), tenth (100, and twelfth (12). These results can be used as the grounds to further research whether alcohol, drug, and smoking increased due to an increase in violent behavior.

Krohn et al.’s (1997) study also utilized the longitudinal study method to examine the relationship between the early development in certain abilities and substance use. The same researchers had a similar hypothesis to the literature discussed in the current review. Particularly, Krohn et al. (1997) predicted the early use of a substance and its relation to the increase in “high school dropout rates, independent living, early pregnancy, and teenage parenting” (87-107). While the experimental research by Carney, Myers, Louw, Lombard, and Flisher (2013) was completed amongst several grade school years, Krohn, Lizotte, and Perez (1997) designed their experiment throughout six-month intervals for the first nine studies while culminating the experiment with one final interval of two years (87-107). While Carney et al.’s (2013) research included students from eighth (8), tenth (10), and twelfth (12) grade levels, Krohn et al.’s (1997) study consisted of only seventh (7) and eighth (8) grade level students (87-107). Furthermore, similar to the study by Carney et al. (2013), the study by Krohn et al.’s (1997) utilized a stratified method of participant selection amongst the public schools in Rochester, New York. (87-107). Differing from the studies included in the current literature review, Krohn et al.’s (1997) research examined a total of 775 adolescent participants, as well as their caregivers (87-107). Including the participant’s caregiver in the research might lead to future studies examining the relationship between adolescent drug use, violent behavior, and confounding factors, such as socio-economic status and parent education.

The research by Bolognini et al. (2007), which was first discussed in the current review, together with Krohn et al’s. (1997) research, hypothesized an earlier onset for adolescents who began utilizing substances, drugs, and alcohol for those with violent behavior. The study by Carney et al. (2013) suggests an early onset in adolescent engagement in delinquent behaviors is more likely to result in future delinquent behavior, as an adult (447-455). Similarly, results were discovered in the study by Krohn et al. (1997), which exhibits that the early onset in adolescent drug use is more likely to lead to a premature transition to adult roles prior to the appropriate emotional and psychological development (87-107). An interesting discovery in the same study is related to causation. Although cigarette, alcohol, and drug use were not consistently related to delinquent behavior, they were likely to be the cause of future adult delinquency. Another component in the relationship between adolescent drug use and delinquent behavior was its effect on gender. Specifically, the study by Krohn et al. (1997) and Carney et al. (2013) revealed similar results displaying a higher probability in male delinquent behavior, as opposed to female delinquent behavior, and its relationship to the use of a substance (87-107; 447-455). Particularly, both research found that adolescent males who engage in alcohol and drug use were more likely to impregnate someone; thus, transitioning from a teenager to adult roles and supporting the idea of early-onset and precocious transition.

Consequently, adolescent females who experience substance and drug use are more likely to become pregnant and drop-out of high school. The findings on the research stated above are a testament to the idea that “precocious transitions is more likely to lead to long-term developmental problems” (Krohn et al. 1997: 87-107). Furthermore, the same study found a connection between its results and the interactional theory suggesting a negative social effect in adolescents who experience drug use (Krohn et al. 1997: 87-107). Particularly, such adolescents are more likely to become unable to develop positive solid social relationships. Interestingly, this study resulted in similar findings as to the research conducted by Bolognini et al. (2007), which supported the association between the use of tobacco, cannabis, and other illicit substance and its prevalence amongst antisocial adolescents (561-574).

Another research study examined in the current review included participants from the sixth (6) grade school level in the United States. Contrary to the experiments incorporated in the current paper, researchers Oesterle, Hawkins, Steketee, Jonkman, Brown, Moll, and Haggerty (2012) exceeded all of the previous studies by including a sample of 14,608 student participants in the United States and 18,822 students in the Netherlands (337-357). The hypothesis in the same research predicted that while American parents viewed adolescent drug use as a negative behavior, parents in the Netherlands portrayed more positive attitudes towards their adolescent’s drug use. Nonetheless, American parents believed adolescent drug use was associated with violent behavior (Oesterle et al. 2012: 337-357). These findings lead to questions regarding the different perceptions of adolescent violence and drug use across cultures and countries. Furthermore, an analysis of the cause of such differences can further be researched.


Bolognini, M., Plancherel, Bernard Plancherel, Mark E. Winnington, Mathieu Bernard, Philippe Stephan and Oliver Halfon. 2007. Substance use early initiation among violent and nonviolent antisocial adolescents. Addiction Research & Theory, 15(6), 561-574.

Brunelle, N., Leclerc, Danielle Leclerc, Marie-Marthe Cousineau, Magali Dufour, Annie Gendron and Isabelle Martin. 2012. Internet Gambling, Substance Use, and Delinquent Behavior: An Adolescent Deviant Behavior Involvement Pattern. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 26(2), 364-370.

Carney, T., Myers, B. Johann Louw, Carl Lombard and Alan J. Flisher. 2013. The relationship between substance use and delinquency among high-school students in Cape Town, South Africa. Journal of Adolescence, 36(3), 447-455.

Krohn, M. D Alan Lizotte and Cynthia M. Perez. 1997. The Interrelationship between Substance Use and Precocious Transitions to Adult Statuses. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38(1), 87-107.

Oesterle, S., J. David Hawkins, Majone Steketee, Harrie Jonkman, Eric C. Brown, Marit Moll and Kevin P. Haggerty. 2012. A Cross-National Comparison of Risk and Protective Factors for Adolescent Drug Use and Delinquency in the United States and the Netherlands. Journal of Drug Issues, 42(4), 337-357.