Delinquency, health behaviour and health


Department of Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, PO Box 80. 140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands. Much of the work for this paper was done while the author was working at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Objectives. This study investigated the association between delinquency and health in a sample of adolescents and young adults (aged 13-24) and examined whether the association could have been due to delinquency-related differences in demographic, socio-economic and life-style factors.

Method. The study is based on cross-sectional data from a sample of 3677 adolescents and young adults interviewed as part of a survey of Dutch households. Health, health behaviour, and delinquency were assessed through self-report measures.

Results. Delinquency was significantly related to three of the four measures of health behaviour (smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use), even after control for demographic and socio-economic factors. Delinquency was also significantly associated with all three measures of health assessed in this study (somatic symptoms, general health, and chronic conditions). However, only minimal support was found for the hypothesis that the association between delinquency and health was mediated by differences in health behaviour or demographic/socio-economic differences.

Conclusions. Adolescent delinquents are less healthy than non-delinquents. Potential causes for this relationship are proposed. Possibly, personality factors, such as hostility, or psychosocial stress might explain why delinquency correlates with health.