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03-04-2020 | Original Article

A Cumulative Substance Use Score as a Novel Measure to Predict Risk of Criminal Recidivism in Forensic Juvenile Male Outpatients

Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Marcel Aebi, Cornelia Bessler, Hans-Christoph Steinhausen
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This longitudinal study aimed to evaluate a newly developed cumulative measure for substance use problems as predictor of criminal recidivism in youth. Questionnaires-based substance-related behaviors (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and further drugs), and interview-based psychiatric disorders were assessed in a sample of 142 male adolescent forensic outpatients in Zurich, Switzerland (mean age 16.8 years, SD = 1.4 years). Cox regressions were used to test whether substance use behaviors/disorders were predictors of officially recorded criminal offenses 365 days after the initial assessment. The cumulative substance problem score (SPS) was a valid measure for assessing the risk of criminal recidivism for youth having 2–3 (OR 2.24–2.56) and 4+ problems (OR 3.40–4.37) in comparison to youth with 0–1 problems. Forensic experts and clinicians should comprehensively assess substance use patterns in juvenile offenders and may use the SPS as an indicator for further criminal risks. Additional analysis of the SPS in other forensic samples and cultures would be worthwhile.

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