Predicting Violent Behavior in Adolescent Cannabis Users: Correlates of and Changes in Social Environment Over Time

Michelle K. White, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
Frank Tims, Operation PAR, Inc.
Michael Dennis, Chestnut Health Systems

Violence, aggression, and criminal offenses are common among adolescent substance abusers and the criminal justice system is the largest single source of referral for adolescents to the substance abuse treatment system. Using Moffitt's (1993) taxonomy of offending behavior theory, we examine which social environment factors (e.g. peer group criminality and drug use, family criminality and drug use) are correlated with criminal activity and violence among adolescent entering substance abuse treatment. We then predict how changes in social environment factors affect criminality and violence over time. We use data from the Cannabis Youth Treatment (CYT) multisite randomized field experiment of 600 adolescents meeting outpatient patient treatment placement criteria. The original CYT study followed clients 12 months after treatment intake and, under a CSAT contract, the participant follow-up was extended to 30 months post-intake with follow-up rates averaging above 92% across the four sites. This large sample of in-treatment youth combined with several measures of their social environment, criminal activity, violence, and legal system involvement, along with the longitudinal nature of the study makes this an especially rich dataset for analysis. Ability to generalize findings to in-treatment youth in the United States will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006