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Addiction. 1996 Apr;91(4):483-94.

Alcohol misuse and juvenile offending in adolescence.

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Christchurch Health and Development Study, Christchurch School of Medicine, Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand.


The associations between alcohol misuse and juvenile offending during the period from 15 to 16 years of age were studied in a birth cohort of New Zealand adolescents. This analysis showed that young people who misused alcohol had significantly (p <0.001) higher rates of both violent and property offences. These associations were similar for males and females. Further analysis suggested that a substantial component of the association between alcohol misuse and juvenile offending arose from shared risk factors that were common to both outcomes. These risk factors included measures of family social background, family and parental characteristics, individual characteristics and adolescent peer affiliations. After adjustment for antecedent risk factors there was no significant association between alcohol misuse and odds of property offences. However, young people who abused alcohol had odds of violent offending that were 3.2 times (p< 0.001) the odds of those offences for young people who did not misuse alcohol. It is concluded: (a) that a large component of the association between alcohol misuse and juvenile offending arises because of the effects of shared risk factors that are associated with both outcomes; (b) none the less, the unexplained association between alcohol misuse and violent offending may suggest the presence of a direct cause and effect association in which adolescent alcohol misuse is associated with increased risks of violent offending.

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