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Substance abuse hinders desistance in young adults' antisocial behavior



We examined two hypotheses about the developmental relation between substance abuse and individual differences in desistance from antisocial behavior during young adulthood. The “snares” hypothesis posits that substance abuse should result in time-specific elevations in antisocial behavior relative to an individual's own developmental trajectory of antisocial behavior, whereas the “launch” hypothesis posits that substance abuse early in young adulthood slows an individual's overall pattern of crime desistance relative to the population norm during this developmental period. We conducted latent trajectory analyses to test these hypotheses using interview data about antisocial behaviors and substance abuse assessed at ages 18, 21, and 26 in men from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (N = 461). We found significant individual variability in initial levels and rates of change in antisocial behavior over time as well as support for both the snares hypothesis and the launch hypothesis as explanations for the developmental relation between substance abuse and crime desistance in young men.We thank the Dunedin Study members, Dunedin Unit Director Richie Poulton, Unit research staff, and Study founder Phil Silva. Research assistance was provided by HonaLee Harrington. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council. We also thank Alex Piquero for his helpful comments. This research received support from the NIDA (Grant DA15398 and DA13148), NIMH (Grants MH45070 and MH49414), William T. Grant Foundation, and Air New Zealand.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Andrea Hussong, CB#3270 Davie Hall, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270.


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