Research conducted on the role of depression in delinquency among adolescent girls has found that depression can predict delinquency. It has been indicated that research should be conducted on how substance use and abuse play a role in depression and delinquency. Several studies have been conducted on adolescent girls in juvenile delinquent centres and institutions. Few studies have sampled subjects from community-based resources, i.e., street youth clinics, youth programs, or alternative schools. The central goal of the study was to explore delinquency in a group of depressed and substance-abusing adolescent girls in community-based settings including street clinics, youth programs, and alternative schools. Specific questions focused on examining the relationship among depression, delinquency, and substance use for adolescent girls, and the prevalence of 12 risk factors (i.e., thought problems, ADHD, rule behaviours, anxiety, aggression, attitude problems, externalized behaviours, self-esteem, social problems, and somatic complaints).
Using a cross-sectional research design, the relationship among depression, substance use, and delinquency, as well as risk factors were examined for adolescent girls from community-based agencies and alternative schools. The participants included 100 adolescent girls, aged 13 to 18 years (mean age = 16.5 years). The data collection instruments that were used included the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) (Kovacs, 1992), the Achenbach Youth Self-Report (YSR) for Ages 11-18 (ASEBA) (Achenbach, 2001), Adaptation of the Self-Reported Delinquency and Drug-Use Items as Employed in the National Youth Survey (Elliott & Ageton, 1980), and an Adolescent Self-Report Questionnaire.
The study found that adolescent girls utilizing community-based street clinics and alternative schools are diverse, varying in age, culture, sexual orientation, background, and living arrangement. Substance use and delinquency were found to have a strong, significant, positive relationship. Depression played a smaller role in the prevalence of delinquency with this sample. In addition, various risk factors were found to be related to substance abuse (as a predictor for delinquency), including rule behavior, self-esteem, somatic complaints, and externalized problems. The strong relationships among substance abuse, delinquency, and risk factors have implications for prevention and treatment programs, supporting the inclusion of evidenced-based drug and alcohol programs that focus on positive coping strategies for problem solving and emotional regulation for at-risk adolescent girls.