Study Finds Alcohol To Be Significant Mortality Risk Factor For Troubled Youths

The journal Pediatrics recently published an article by Northwestern University professor Linda Teplin and her colleagues in which they examined leading causes of death in delinquent youths.  It's well-known that delinquency is associated not only with violent offending, but also with higher risk for early violent death in general, and homicide in particular.  Yet the risk factors for mortality in delinquent youths have not been studied extensively, especially for certain groups, such as females and Hispanics.

This study used data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project (a longitudinal study of health needs and outcomes of a sample of 1829 youths detained between 1995 and 1998) and 16 years of death records in order to compare mortality rates and causes of death with those of the general population, and to examine risk factors for mortality after youths leave detention.

The study found that:

  • In nearly every demographic subgroup, delinquent youth had significantly higher mortality rates than the general population, and they remained at risk into adulthood.
  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for delinquent youth.  The overwhelming majority (91 percent) of homicides involved firearms.  Males and racial/ethnic minorities were at increased risk of homicide.
  • Gang membership and drug dealing were significantly associated with homicide deaths.
  • Alcohol use disorder also significantly (and more strongly than gang membership and drug dealing) increased the risk of violent death for delinquent youth.

Read more: resources:
Characteristics of Teen Substance Users: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Correlates of Desistance (
Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health (
Gun Violence in America (
Generational Trends in Attitudes about Gun Ownership: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Frederique Laubepin