-- Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Infants growing up in
households struggling with chronic unemployment may face a higher
risk for engaging in substance abuse and a range of other
delinquent behaviors as adolescents, new research suggests.
The finding is reported in the Dec. 31 online issue of the
Archives of General Psychiatry.
"The results demonstrate a strong correlation between the unemployment rate during infancy and subsequent behavioral problems," according to the study team led by Seethalakshmi Ramanathan, of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y.
"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 study authors wrote.
To explore the subject, the investigators cross-referenced
unemployment statistics between 1980 and 1982 (a time of recession)
and data collected by the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of
Youth 1997 concerning nearly 9,000 adolescents who were born
between 1980 and 1984.
The result: The research team found that when homes caring for
1-year-old infants were exposed to even small upticks in their
local unemployment rate, the chance that the infant would encounter
behavioral problems as an adolescent increased.
Such problems included smoking marijuana or cigarettes,
drinking, getting arrested, getting involved with gangs, and
engaging in petty or major theft, the study authors noted in a
journal news release.
That said, no such link between unemployment downturns and a
higher risk for using hard drugs or engaging in violent assault was
"Although the past does not necessarily predict the future, it provides important lessons," Ramanathan's team concluded. "Our findings suggest an important static risk factor that mental-health professionals may want to take into account when dealing with children exposed to the current economic crisis."
"We hope that the study inspires mental-health professionals to look for potential causes and explore interventions that can mitigate some of these long-term consequences," he added.
Although the study found an association between economic
conditions at the time of birth and behavior problems in
adolescence, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
For more on juvenile delinquency prevention, visit the
U.S. Office of Justice Programs.
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