The Impact of Multiple Transitions on Delinquency and Substance Use Among Native American Adolescents

Barbara J. McMorris, University of Washington
Les B. Whitbeck, Iowa State University
Dan R. Hoyt, Iowa State University

The impact of positive and negative life-event changes on child well-being should be considered in the context of normative transitions in the life course. This paper investigates the relationship between transitions and behavioral adjustment in 220 Native American 5th-8th graders (M=12-year-old, range = 9-16-years-old) from three reservations in the upper Midwest. Specifically, we looked at the influence of multiple changes in the adolescent's environment, including residential moves, school moves, having a close relative die, starting to date, and having a close friend move away, on participation in delinquent behaviors and use of substances. Multivariate regression models showed that girls use more drugs than boys and that peer changes (starting to date and having a friend move away) significantly increase delinquency and drug use. Family instability, family structure, and an index of the total number of changes experienced were also significant predictors of higher levels of both problem behaviors. Attending a reservation school reduced the number of drugs used but did not have a similar protective effect on delinquent behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006