That's the gist of the question a Bradley Hasbro Research Center scientist is asking as she embarks on a project to study 400 Rhode Island teens after their first brush with the law.
Researcher Marina Tolou-Shams has scored a $3.4 million dollar grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to follow kids 13 - 17 for two years after their initial arrest or interaction with the court system. According to a news release from the research center, Tolou-Shams will be monitoring "the development of drug use, HIV/STD risk behaviors, psychiatric symptoms and recidivism in the adolescent offender population."
The idea is to figure out whether there are any patterns that emerge among kids who have a run-in with the law. Does having a psychiatric disorder lead to riskier behavior? Are there family or environmental factors that lead some, more than others, down risky paths?
The findings, said Tolou-Shams in a statement, might help law enforcement, public health workers, and others develop some early interventions to help keep kids from returning to the juvenile justice system.
Tolou-Shams also said it's one of the first large scale, longitudinal studies of its kind; most of this kind of work has focused on kids who are already locked up.
It's a big grant, too, from NIDA, that Tolou-Shams will be working with. Should be interesting to learn more about what she finds down the road.