Researchers used longitudinal data from 1980 - 1984 to determine the effects of the macroeconomic environment on adolescent behavior.
The study showed infants living in areas of high unemployment (job loss) in the United States were more prone to substance use and delinquent behavior when they reached the adolescent years. The findings were published Dec. 31 in JAMA (archives of General Psychiatry).
Children who lived in high unemployment areas at one year of age had an increase in marijuana use, smoking, alcohol use, arrest, gang affiliation and petty/major theft.
Archives report December of 1982 had a high unemployment rate of 10.8%, which was the pinnacle of the data investigated.
The new information strongly suggests infants whose parents are under extreme stress from job loss can have long-term negative effects in later years. The adolescent delinquent behaviors appear to be indirectly associated with the parents’ struggle with unemployment.
The dynamics of having a job loss in the family unit can push parents to emotionally withdraw from their children. Factors may include time spent on searching for employment, depression and stress.
Previous studies linked parental job loss to unfavorable behaviors in children’s school performance and self-esteem, which support the new findings.
While the job loss may contribute to more family time, it may not be ‘quality’ time.
The researchers found no significant associations with the use of hard drugs, property destruction and assaultive behavior with parental job loss in infancy.
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