Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 131–155 | Cite as

A Factor Analytic Model of Drug-Related Behavior in Adolescence and Its Impact on Arrests at Multiple Stages of the Life Course

Original Paper



Recognizing the inherent variability of drug-related behaviors, this study develops an empirically-driven and holistic model of drug-related behavior during adolescence using factor analysis to simultaneously model multiple drug behaviors.


The factor analytic model uncovers latent dimensions of drug-related behaviors, rather than patterns of individuals. These latent dimensions are treated as empirical typologies which are then used to predict an individual’s number of arrests accrued at multiple phases of the life course. The data are robust enough to simultaneously capture drug behavior measures typically considered in isolation in the literature, and to allow for behavior to change and evolve over the period of adolescence.


Results show that factor analysis is capable of developing highly descriptive patterns of drug offending, and that these patterns have great utility in predicting arrests. Results further demonstrate that while drug behavior patterns are predictive of arrests at the end of adolescence for both males and females, the impacts on arrests are longer lasting for females.


The various facets of drug behaviors have been a long-time concern of criminological research. However, the ability to model multiple behaviors simultaneously is often constrained by data that do not measure the constructs fully. Factor analysis is shown to be a useful technique for modeling adolescent drug involvement patterns in a way that accounts for the multitude and variability of possible behaviors, and in predicting future negative life outcomes, such as arrests.


Drug use Drug selling Factor analysis Arrests 



Support for the Rochester Youth Development Study has been provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (86-JN-CX-0007), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA005512), the National Science Foundation (SBR-9123299), and the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH63386). Work on this project was also aided by grants to the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University at Albany from NICHD (P30HD32041) and NSF (SBR-9512290). We are most grateful to the many helpful comments and suggestions given by the anonymous reviewers on earlier versions of this paper.


  1. Abdi H (2003) Factor rotations in factor analysis. In: Lewis-Beck M, Bryman A, Futing T (eds) Encyclopedia of social sciences research methods. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  2. Altschuler DM, Brounstein PJ (1991) Patterns of drug use, drug trafficking, and other delinquency among inner-city adolescent males in Washington, DC. Criminology 29(4):589–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumer E, Lauritsen JL, Rosenfeld R, Wright R (1998) The influence of crack cocaine on robbery, burglary, and homicide rates: a cross-city, longitudinal analysis. J Res Crime Delinq 35(3):316–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bennett T, Holloway K, Farrington D (2008) The statistical association between drug misuse and crime: a meta-analysis. Aggress Violent Behav 13(2):107–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black MM, Ricardo IB (1994) Drug use, drug trafficking, and weapon carrying among low-income, African-American, early adolescent boys. Pediatrics 93(6):1065–1072Google Scholar
  6. Blumstein A, Cohen J, Roth JA, Visher CA (1986) Criminal careers and “career criminals”. National Academy Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Braga AA, Pierce GL, McDevitt J, Bond BJ, Cronin S (2008) The strategic prevention of gun violence among gang-involved offenders. Justice Q 25(1):132–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brame R, Turner MG, Paternoster R, Bushway SD (2012) Cumulative prevalence of arrest from ages 8–23 in a national sample. Pediatrics 129:21–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brook DW, Brook JS, Rubenstone E, Zhang C, Saar NS (2011) Developmental associations between externalizing behaviors, peer delinquency, drug use, perceived neighborhood crime, and violent behavior in urban communities. Aggress Behav 37(4):349–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cartier J, Farabee D, Prendergast ML (2006) Methamphetamine use, self-reported violent crime, and recidivism among offenders in California who abuse substances. J Interpers Violence 21(4):435–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Caulkins JP, Johnson B, Taylor A, Taylor L (1998) What drug dealers tell us about their costs of doing business. Heinz Research, paper 43Google Scholar
  12. Comrey AL, Lee HB (2013) A first course in factor analysis. Psychology Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Dave D (2008) Illicit drug use among arrestees, prices and policy. J Urban Econ 63(2):694–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeLisi M, Angton A, Behnken MP, Kusow AM (2013) Do adolescent drug users fare the worst? Onset type, juvenile delinquency, and criminal careers. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. doi: 10.1177/0306624X13505426 Google Scholar
  15. DeLisi M, Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Jennings WG (2015) Drugged and dangerous prevalence and variants of substance use comorbidity among seriously violent offenders in the United States. J Drug Issues. doi: 10.1177/0022042615579237 Google Scholar
  16. Dorsey TL, Middleton P (2010) Drugs and crime facts. Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 165148. US Department of Justice, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  17. Fagan J, Chin K-L (1990) Violence as regulation and social control in the distribution of crack. Natl Inst Drug Abuse Res Monogr Ser 103:8–43Google Scholar
  18. Fleisher MS (2006) Youth gang social dynamics and social network analysis: applying degree centrality measures to assess the nature of gang boundaries. In: Short JF, Hughes LA (eds) Studying youth gangs. Rowan Altamira, Lanham MD, pp 85–98Google Scholar
  19. French MT, Roebuck C, Alexandre PK (2001) Illicit drug use, employment, and labor force participation. South Econ J 68(2):349–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldstein PJ (1985) The drugs/violence nexus: a tripartite conceptual framework. J Drug Issues 15(4):493–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordon RA, Rowe HL, Pardini D, Loeber R, White HR, Farrington DP (2014) Serious delinquency and gang participation: combining and specializing in drug selling, theft, and violence. J Res Adolesc 24(2):235–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hagelstam C, Hakkanen H (2006) Adolescent homicides in Finland: offence and offender characteristics. Forensic Sci International 164(2):110–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harrison L, Gfoerer J (1992) The intersection of drug use and criminal behavior: results from the national household survey on drug abuse. Crime Delinq 38(4):422–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huizinga D, Morse BJ, Elliott DS (1992) The national youth survey: an overview and description of recent findings. University of Colorado, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson BD, Golub A, Fagan J (1995) Careers in crack, drug use, drug distribution, and nondrug criminality. Crime Delinq 41(3):275–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kinlock TW, O’Grady KE, Hanlon TE (2003) Prediction of the criminal activity of incarcerated drug-abusing offenders. J Drug Issues 33:897–920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Korcha RA, Cherpitel CJ, Witbrodt J, Borges G, Hejazi-Bazargan S, Bond JC, Ye Y, Gmel G (2014) Violence-related injury and gender: the role of alcohol and alcohol combined with illicit drugs. Drug Alcohol Rev 33(1):43–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Krohn MD, Thornberry TP (1999) Retention of minority populations in panel studies of drug use. Drugs Soc 14:185–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Krohn MD, Lizotte AJ, Phillips MD, Thornberry TP, Bell KA (2013) Explaining systematic bias in self-report measures: factors that affect the under- and over-reporting of self-reported arrests. Justice Q 30(3):501–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Langan PA, Levin DJ (2002) Recidivism of prisoners released in 1994. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. US Department of Justice, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  31. Lizotte AJ, Krohn MD, Howell JC, Tobin K, Howard GJ (2000) Factors influencing gun carrying among young urban males over the adolescent–young adult life course. Criminology 38(3):811–834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyman MD, Potter GW (2007) Drugs in society, 5th edn. Anderson Publishing Co, CincinnatiGoogle Scholar
  33. Maden A, Swinton M, Gunn J (1992) A survey of pre-arrest drug use in sentenced prisoners. Br J Addict 87:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mclaughlin CR, Daniel J, Joost TF (2000) The relationship between substance use, drug selling, and lethal violence in 25 juvenile murderers. J Forensic Sci 45(2):349–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller J (2001) One of the guys: girls, gangs, and gender. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Monahan KC, Rhew IC, Hawkins JD, Brown EC (2014) Adolescent pathways to co-occurring problem behavior: the effects of peer delinquency and peer substance use. J Res Adolesc 24(4):630–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mosher C (2001) Predicting drug arrest rates: conflict and social disorganization perspectives. Crime Delinq 47(1):84–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Newcomb MD (1994) Drug use and intimate relationships among women and men: separating specific from general effects in prospective data using structural equation models. J Consult Clin Psychol 62(3):463–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nurco DN, Kinlock TW, Hanlon TE (2008) The drugs-crime connection. In: Inciardi JA, McElrath K (eds) The American drug scene, 5th edn. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 357–370Google Scholar
  40. O’Rourke N, Psych R, Hatcher L (2013) A step-by-step approach to using SAS for factor analysis and structural equation modeling. SAS Institute, CaryGoogle Scholar
  41. Passini S (2012) The delinquency–drug relationship: the influence of social reputation and moral disengagement. Addict Behav 37(4):577–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Phillips MD (2012) Assessing the impact of drug use and drug selling on violent behavior in a panel of delinquent youth. J Drug Issues 42(3):298–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rhodes W, Kling R, Johnston P (2007) Using booking data to model drug user arrest rates: a preliminary to estimating the prevalence of chronic drug use. J Quant Criminol 23(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ricardo IB (1994) Life choices of African-American youth living in public housing: perspectives on drug trafficking. Pediatrics 93(6):1055–1059Google Scholar
  45. Roberts J, Mulvey EP, Horney J, Lewis J, Arter ML (2005) A test of two methods of recall for violent events. J Quant Criminol 21(2):175–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rosenfeld R, Decker SH (1999) Are arrest statistics a valid measure of illicit drug use? The relationship between criminal justice and public health indicators of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use. Justice Q 16(3):685–699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rummel RJ (1967) Understanding factor analysis. J Confl Resolut 11(4):444–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rummel RJ (1970) Applied factor analysis. Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  49. Shaw J, Hunt IM, Flynn S, Amos T, Meehan J, Robinson J, Bickley H, Parsons R, McCann K, Burns J, Kapur N (2006) The role of alcohol and drugs in homicides in England and Wales. Addiction 101(8):1117–1124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thompson B (2004) Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis: understanding concepts and applications. American Psychological Association, WashingtonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Thornberry TP, Krohn MD, Lizotte AJ, Smith CA, Tobin K (2003) Gangs and delinquency in developmental perspective. Cambridge University Press, CambrigeGoogle Scholar
  52. Valdez A, Sifaneck SJ (2006) Getting high and getting by: dimensions of drug selling behaviors among American Mexican gang members in South Texas. In: Egley A, Maxson CL, Miller J, Klein MW (eds) The modern gang reader, 3rd edn. Roxbury Publishing Company, Los Angeles, pp 296–310Google Scholar
  53. Warner BD, Coomer BW (2003) Neighborhood drug arrest rates: are they a meaningful indicator of drug activity? A research note. J Res Crime Delinq 40(2):123–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal Justice and CriminologyUNC CharlotteCharlotteUSA

Personalised recommendations