Adolescent Risk-Taking Has Major Consequences When It Comes To Marriage

Apr 21, 2009
UB sociologist Sampson Blair studies marriage and family. His latest research shows that deliquent teens marry earlier in life, while teenage girls sho smoke marijuana marry later than peers.

( -- A national study of data collected over 12 years finds that delinquent teens marry earlier than their peers, while substance-abusing teens -- especially girls who abuse marijuana -- marry later than peers, if at all.

"The Influence of Risk-Taking Behaviors on the Transition into Marriage: An Examination of the Long-Term Consequences of Adolescent Behavior" by University at Buffalo sociologist Sampson Lee Blair, Ph.D., is a rare look at the long-term effects of teen delinquency and drug abuse on adult role attainment.

Delinquency was defined as anti-social behavior, including frequency of running away, arrests, physical fights and behavioral problems in school.

The study analyzed data from a U.S. Department of Education survey collected from a nationally representative sample of 9,813 young adults from 1988 to 2000. The results were presented at the March conference of the Eastern Sociological Society in Baltimore, Md.

The results are significant, says Blair, associate professor of sociology at UB, because in the U.S. marriage is commonly regarded as offering substantial economic, social and health advantages for individuals. The vast majority of high school girls -- much more so than boys -- tend to view marriage as "extremely important" to them.

But adolescent substance abuse and delinquent behaviors, he says, clearly have far-reaching consequences for the marital status of young adults, particularly girls.

"Most previous studies have focused on the relatively short-term effects of adolescent substance use and delinquency," he says, "but here we find good evidence that, for both sexes, delinquent behavior is linked to an increase in the likelihood of marriage and a lower age at first marriage. On the other hand, adolescents with relatively high levels of abuse of alcohol and marijuana have a lower likelihood of marriage even by their late 20s.

"The likelihood of marriage by that age is substantially lower among female adolescent substance abusers, particularly if the substance abused is marijuana."

He says the results suggest that delinquency and substance abuse may influence adolescents' orientation toward other adult roles as well.

The analyses employed data from 5,331 females and 4,482 males participants in the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), a nationally representative sample of high school students that collected information from respondents over a 12-year period.

NELS, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, collected data from surveys of students, parents, teachers and school administrators in 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 2000, at which time most of the students in the sample were in their mid- to late-20s, had completed their educational goals and had already entered into marriage.

Adolescent respondents were asked about the frequency of their alcohol use and marijuana use; delinquent and anti-social behavior, including frequency of running away, arrests, physical fights and school problems (cutting classes, skipping school, getting into trouble for violating rules, suspension or probation, transfer for disciplinary reasons).

The study also assessed data relative to family income, parental expectations about college attendance and the importance peers placed on various activities like going to parties, drinking alcohol, having sex and using drugs. Control measures for the race/ethnicity of respondents were used as well.

"It is certainly the case that many of these variables had an effect on the timing of the participants' marital experience," Blair says.

"Nevertheless, this analysis clearly suggests that even when all of them are considered, adolescent substance abuse and delinquent behaviors have far-reaching consequences for the marital status of ," he says.

"Additional research is needed to learn how developmental processes of adolescence are affected by delinquent behavior and substance abuse and the relative influences of these sex-based differences on other forms of adult status attainment."

Blair is a widely published expert in the sociology of the family, child and adolescent development, gender and ethnicity. He is the former editor of the journal Sociological Inquiry and former associate editor of Social Justice Research Journal of Family Issues and Marriage and Family Review.

Provided by University at Buffalo (news : web)

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gauging parent knowledge about teens' substance use

Oct 24, 2007

New research results from the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) suggest that most parents are aware of and accurately evaluate the extent of their teenager’s cigarette smoking, marijuana use, ...

Teens in Love Do Less Crime

Jan 21, 2009

( -- Teenagers in love may be less likely to get mixed up in crime and substance abuse, according to new UC Davis research. But while romantic love seems to help keep teens law-abiding, casual sex can mean trouble.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 21, 2009
Rather than searching for the causality of chemical substances on future choices in life, it seems more likely the choices made later in life are linked to those made during adolescence because--the family issues avoided in the first place by using the substances are the same one is attempting to avoid by not getting married. Yes, my personal experience.

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.