John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator November 2000

Youth Development SeriesCo-occurrence of Delinquency and Other Problem Behaviors

David Huizinga, Rolf Loeber,
Terence P. Thornberry, and Lynn Cothern


Prevalence of Persistent Problem Behavior

Drug Use

School Problems

Mental Health Problems

Combinations of Persistent Problems


For Further Information


Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

From the Administrator

Seriously delinquent youth often exhibit other problem behaviors. Understanding the extent of overlap between delinquency and these other problem behaviors is important for developing effective prevention strategies and targeted interventions.

Using data from the first 3 years of OJJDPs Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency, this Bulletin examines the co-occurrence of serious delinquency with specific problem areas: school behavior, drug use, mental health, and combinations of these behaviors.

Preliminary findings show that a large proportion of serious delinquents are not involved in persistent drug use, nor do they have persistent school or mental health problems; that the problem that co-occurs most frequently with serious delinquency is drug use; and that, for males, as the number of problem behaviors other than delinquency increases, so does the likelihood that an individual will be a serious delinquent.

These findings emphasize the importance of identifying and addressing the unique needs of individual youth, rather than proceeding under the assumption that all offenders require similar treatment, to most effectively prevent and reduce serious, chronic delinquency.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator



This Bulletin is based on The Co-Occurrence of Persistent Problem Behavior: A Report of the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency by David Huizinga, Rolf Loeber, and Terence P. Thornberry (unpublished report submitted to OJJDP, October 1997).

David Huizinga, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Director of the Denver Youth Survey. Rolf Loeber, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Study. Terence P. Thornberry, Ph.D., is Professor and former Dean at the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, State University of New York, and Director of the Rochester Youth Development Study. Lynn Cothern, Ph.D., is a Senior Writer-Editor for the Juvenile Justice Resource Center, Rockville, MD.

The authors would like to thank the data collection and research staff of the three projects and all respondents of the three studies, without whom this research would not be possible.

Research for the Denver Youth Survey, the Pittsburgh Youth Study, and the Rochester Youth Development Study is supported by OJJDP under grants 96MUFX0017, 96MUFX0012, and 96MUFX0014, respectively. The Denver Youth Survey is also supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The Pittsburgh Youth Study is also supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The Rochester Youth Development Study is also supported by grants from NIDA and the National Science Foundation.

NCJ 182211

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