Drinking problems and self-reported criminal behavior, arrests and convictions: 1990 US alcohol and 1989 county surveys

Authors

  • THOMAS K. GREENFIELD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Alcohol Research Group, Western Consortium for Public Health, USA.
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    • 1

      Also Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

  • CONSTANCE WEISNER

    1. Alcohol Research Group, Western Consortium for Public Health, USA.
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      Also Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, Univeristy of California, Berkeley.


  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Amercian Public Health Assocation 120th Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 8–12 November 1992.

T.K. Greenfield, Ph.D., Ph. D., Alcohol Research Group, 2000 Hearst Avenue, Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA.

Abstract

Use of general population surveys in addition to institutional samples is critical to disentangling the relationship between criminal behavior and alcohol problems or use of illicit drugs. Local area studies can be useful but generalizability of their results is seldom studied. Data from recent US national (n = 2058) and county (n = 3069) general population surveys are used to examine the role of alcohol problem and drug use history in predicting self-reported criminal behavior, arrest and conviction within a logistic regression framework. In the national and county surveys controlling for age, gender, income, marital status, employment, education, race and drug use, lifetime drinking problems significantly predicted current criminal behavior (odds ratios 1.3 and 1.5, respectively) with slightly stronger relationships noted in equivalent models predicting arrest (odds ratios 1.7 and 1.8) and conviction (odds ratios 1.7 and 1.6). Relationships between alcohol, drugs and criminal behavior/justice variables are discussed. Parallels between US and county results suggest that findings from intensive, articulated analyses of community-level population and institutional surveys may be cautiously generalized beyond their geographic locus.

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