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Child and Adolescent Trajectories: More Evidence Emerges

A great deal of my recent work in addiction and mental health has been focused on understanding and addressing divergent patterns of drug and alcohol involvement with young people. This has capitalized on emergent research that demonstrates that risk factors for substance misuse link together creating highly predictable and distinct pathways into problematic use. As such, substance misuse clusters with other issues for young people, such as mental illness, offending and other anti-social behaviors. Click here for a review.

Recent research from the much respected Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health Development Research Unit, based in New Zealand, supports this theory. The Dunedin internationally renowned research programme followed 1,000 children born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972-73, from birth to midlife. The latest findings found that nearly 80 per cent of adult economic burden can be attributed to just 20 per cent of the Study members. This sub-group accounted for 81 per cent of criminal convictions, 66 per cent of welfare benefits, 78 per cent of prescription fills and 40 per cent of excess obese kilograms.

At age three, each Study member took part in a pediatric examination that included a neurological evaluation and assessments of verbal comprehension, language development, motor skills, and social behavior. Looking back at the test results, the team found that scoring poorly on these tests was a good predictor of going on to be in the “high cost” group.“We also found that members of this group tended to have grown up in more socioeconomically deprived environments, experienced child maltreatment, scored poorly on childhood IQ tests and exhibited low childhood self-control,” he says.

These children exhibited the profile of externalized disorders. These findings, particular predicting future outcomes from a very young age have been found in other studies too. (Click here for more information.)

For more information on the Dunedin Research Unit please click here.

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