Methods: A secondary data analysis was conducted using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Waves1&3) which consists of national representative youth sample surveyed in 1994-1995 and in young adulthood (2000-2001). The sample (N=6504) was comprised of youth (ages 12-21 at Wave 1). Self report information (Wave 1&2) from in-home interviews provided data on sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, risk behavior (i.e., substance use and delinquency) and resiliency factors, i.e., self-esteem ( positive self appraisal), social support (i.e., how close to mom/dad), religiosity (i.e., importance of religion) and treatment participation (yes/no) and religious participation and adult arrest (yes/no). A structural equation model examined the latent construct of delinquency which was hypothesized to predict the latent construct of resiliency, which in turn, predicted adult arrest. Using multiple group comparison methods we tested two scenarios: male versus female and history of substance abuse/mental health treatment (history/no history). In each scenario, the regression weights (delinquency-resiliency-arrest) were constrained equal across groups to test the hypothesis of group dissimilarity.
Findings: For the gender comparisons, there was no significant difference (p=.13) between the models where the genders were allowed to freely estimate (X2= 4.45,df=98,CFI=.99,RMSEA=.02) and where the regression estimates were constrained to equality across the two gender groups (X2=4.40,df=100,CFI=.99,RMSEA=.02).The model for both boys and girls worked well and the link between delinquency and resiliency (B=.16,p<.001) and resiliency and arrest (B=.12,p<.001) were significant. For the comparisons between those with and without a treatment (substance abuse and/or mental health) history, we again found no significant differences (p=.99) between the models where the treatment (yes/no) groups were allowed to freely estimate (X2=2.57,df=98,CFI=.98,RMSEA=.03) and where the regression estimates were constrained to equality across the two treatment history groups (X2= 2.48,df=100,CFI=.98, RMSEA=.03). The model for both those with and without a treatment history produced a good fit but neither the link between delinquency and resiliency or between resiliency and arrests were significant. Substance use did not have a direct or indirect effect on arrest.
Implications: These findings suggest that individual/social resiliency factors, e.g., self-esteem, social support, and religiosity exert a protective influence for male and female youth who engage in substance use and delinquency. These findings are useful for social work practitioners, especially when working with male and female juvenile justice involved youth. Social workers are in the unique position to provide male and female youth with services that can reinforce psychological, social, and religious supports which may reduce their risk of adult involvement in the criminal justice system for both males and females.