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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 19;9(8):e104909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104909. eCollection 2014.

A systematic review of financial debt in adolescents and young adults: prevalence, correlates and associations with crime.

Author information

  • 1Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 2Kohnstamm Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 3Alexander Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Financial debt in young people has increased in recent years. Because debt may have severe consequences, and it may enhance criminal behavior, insight into the prevalence and determinants of debt and its association with crime is important. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 manuscripts to examine the prevalence of financial debt (k = 23), correlates and risk factors of debt (k = 16), and associations between debt and criminal behavior in adolescents and young adults (k = 8). Findings revealed that the prevalence of debt is substantial among young people; on average, 49% reported to have at least some debt, 22% had financial problems. Older participants and ethnic minorities were found to have higher levels of debt than younger and indigenous counterparts. Females had more financial problems and higher student loans. Low self-esteem, a pro-debt attitude (of young people and their parents), lack of perceived control towards financial management, poor social functioning, financial stress and external locus of control were found to have the strongest associations with debt. Studies reported strong associations between debt and crime. Particularly, strong associations were found between serious and persistent crime in young people and later (young adult) debt or financial problems.

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