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Study: Babies born during recessions more likely to be involved with crime, drugs

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tough times lead to children growing up too soon, ending with tough kids. Babies born during hard economic times are far more likely to be involved in drugs and crime, a new study says. The findings were based upon the economic depression and malaise of the last five years.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - U.S. teens born during the 1980s showed higher rates of adolescent smoking, drinking, arrests and thefts. Researchers at New York Upstate Medical University now wonder if the children born now could face a similar fate.

"What was striking for us was it basically went across all socioeconomic strata," Dr. Seethalakshmi Ramanathan, the lead author of the study says. "From a national level, it seems like everyone is affected."

Data was collected from 8,984 people born between January 1st 1980 and December 31st, 1984 and who had participated in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There were two U.S. recessions in the 1980s, from 1980 to 1981 and then one more in 1982. The BLS' survey took in questions about the children's education, income, attitudes, expectations, thefts, arrests, drug use, alcohol use, gun use and cigarette use.

Certain delinquent behaviors were more prevalent among kids born into areas affected by high unemployment rates, Ramanathan found.

Children's risk for being arrested, joining a gang, smoking pot, stealing, drinking and smoking were up to 17 percent higher for children who were born into areas where high unemployment ruled. This was regardless of economic wealth or even if their parents were employed.

For every one percentage point below the mean regional unemployment rate, children in affected areas had a nine percent higher chance of using marijuana, a seven percent higher chance of smoking tobacco, and a six percent higher chance of drinking as adolescents.

Statistics were uniformly grim. The chance of being in a gang rose to nine percent, involvement in petty theft jumped to six percent, major theft 11 percent and the chance of being arrested rose to 17 percent.

Interestingly, the research found that serious social issues like gun violence, assault, destroying property and hard drugs were not affected by higher unemployment rates.

The study didn't speculate as to the cause of the links between delinquency and high unemployment.

One Pew Research Center survey from 2009 did find that 14 percent of potential parents said that they were delaying having a child because of a recession, which led them to conclude that pregnancies during that period might not have been planned.

And the study reflected that children born as the result of unwanted pregnancies often had poorer mental and physical health, weak relationships with their parents and become delinquents during adolescence.

A difficult economic climate also implies that parents have to go back to the workplace, leaving their children in day care and reducing the amount of time spent together.

They found that some of the delinquent behaviors were more common among children who were surrounded by higher unemployment during infancy.

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