Young People Who Witness Substance Abuse More Likely to Engage in Antisocial Behavior

devpsychpathA new study of a group of teenagers found that they were much more likely to participate in destructive actions on the days when they witness substance abuse. While it has been known that active substance abuse occurring in the environment of young people can have a negative impact on their lives, this is perhaps the first set of data that was able to look at specific actions and record the evidence more precisely and efficiently.

“Past research has shown that children who grow up in families, schools and neighborhoods where alcohol and drugs are frequently used are at risk for behavioral problems later in life, but our findings demonstrate that these effects are immediate,” said Candice Odgers, associate professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.

The full results of the study appear in the journal Development and Psychopathology. One of the interesting things about this particular study is how they collected the data – via mobile devices. Rather than doing and end-of-the-day recap like other similar research, they were able to have the adolescents record their thoughts, actions and events real time via their cell phones.

It was also noted that teens with the genotype most common for ADHD diagnosis were more susceptible to acting out following the influence. Impulsivity combined with the exposure made for a difficult situation for these kids to deal with, resulting in the antisocial behavior.

“A series of studies has shown that consuming alcohol before age 15 predicts a wide range of later problems including substance dependency, involvement in criminal behavior and health problems. Our findings suggest that we may also need to prevent exposure to others using substances during this period,” Odgers said.