Disadvantaged Teens Linked to Crime, Abuse

BOYS TOWN, Neb., Aug. 17 (UPI) — Youth from low-income backgrounds are more likely to have early sex but youth from middle-income backgrounds are more likely to drink, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author W. Alex Mason of the National Research Institute for Child and Family Studies in Boys Town, Neb., and colleagues examined the influence of delinquency behavior in late childhood development among more than 800 youth from different backgrounds, ages 10-24.

The adolescent and young adult subjects were asked to complete self-report assessments on delinquent involvement, alcohol use and sexual activity in late childhood and as teens.

The study, scheduled to be published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found children growing up in low-income households were twice as likely as others to report early sex onset — by age 11 — and more likely to report early delinquency — by age 10 — than those from middle-income backgrounds.

However, youth from middle-income backgrounds were 1.5 times more likely to report early alcohol use — by age 10 — than those from low-income backgrounds, the study says.

In addition, youth who showed early and frequent involvement with risky sex, delinquency and alcohol use in late childhood and extending throughout adolescence showed an increase in long-term crime, alcohol use disorders and risky sex behaviors in young adulthood, the study says.

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