Recession babies may be more likely to be teen delinquents

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The state of the economy during a child's infancy may have an influence on their level of substance abuse and delinquent behavior later in life.

Researchers discovered that there was a strong correlation children born during high unemployment rates during and after the 1980 and 1981 - 1982 recession and behavioral problems in adolescence.

"The results demonstrate a strong correlation between the unemployment rate during infancy and subsequent behavioral problems. This finding suggests that unfavorable economic conditions during infancy may create circumstances that can affect the psychological development of the infant and lead to the development of behavioral problems in adolescence," the authors wrote.

Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which included a group of 8,984 adolescents born from Jan. 1, 1980 through Dec. 31, 1984. The survey asked questions about drug, alcohol and gun use, as well as arrests, thefts and other behaviors.

One-year-old children during this time frame who were in an environment that was 1 percent away from the mean regional unemployment rates had a higher chance of using marijuana (9 percent more), smoking (7 percent), using alcohol (6 percent), getting arrested (17 percent), being affiliated with a gang (9 percent) and committing petty (6 percent) and major theft (11 percent) during adolescence. There was no significant association between using hard drugs and assaultive behavior.

Breaking that down, that meant that instead of 20 out of every 1,000 kids who smoked pot typically, there would instead be 23 kids in higher unemployment regions out of 1,000 that would abuse the drug. Theoretically, there would be 115,000 more pot smokers in the age group nationwide.

However, lead author Dr. Seethalakshmi Ramanathan, a researcher at State University of New York Upstate Medical University, told Reuters that the study couldn't say that high unemployment rates caused the delinquent behavior, but that there was just a link.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry on Dec. 31.

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