Relationships Between Delinquency and Substance Use Among Adolescents Emancipating from Foster Care

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Adolescents emancipating from foster care exhibit high rates of both delinquency and substance use, although it is less clear how these behaviors relate to one another. We aimed to examine the reciprocal relationships between these risk behaviors while accounting for relevant child welfare factors. We use data from the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs to explore longitudinal associations between delinquent behaviors and substance use (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana) among youths ages 17 and 18 (N = 429). Delinquency at age 17 was a positive predictor of substance use at age 18, after controlling for baseline use of substances. In contrast, substance use at age 17 was not predictive of increased delinquency at age 18 after baseline delinquency was controlled. Findings indicate that among youths emancipating from the foster care system, delinquent behavior might increase vulnerability for future substance use, as opposed to the latter.



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