Key factors for positive or negative development in adolescence

Russell Turner, PhD Student of Social Work, GU

Initiatives designed to address teenage substance use and criminality are often based on implicit assumptions about why young people use substances or engage in criminal behaviour. These assumptions include notions about when adults or society should react and what kinds of reactions or interventions should be used. Previous research has however not been able to give clear answers to the question of why young people use substances or engage in criminality. There are likely to be different developmental patterns for different teenagers with different reasons behind these patterns. Better understanding is needed of which young people may need support, when and which type of support may be most helpful. This is both to prevent over-reactions but also to avoid a young person falling between two stools and not receiving the support they may need. One way of developing better knowledge in this area is through a more precise understanding of the different developmental patterns of substance use and criminality during adolescence and of the probable causes of these patterns.

I have been a doctorate student in LoRDIA since 2015 and my key focus is on studying such developmental patterns concerning substance use and criminality. My interest is in how we can understand these different patterns and in particular what kinds of causal factors can be discerned. For example, are there certain patterns of behaviour where we can see a negative spiral (and thus where early intervention may have helped)? And what factors might have caused the negative spiral (what should early intervention address?). On the other hand, are there groups of young people who use substances or engage in criminality who then manage to develop positively? Interventions may need to be different for these youth. My interest in understanding differing causal pathways for different adolescents leads me to look for explanations at a variety of levels. Hence in my research I will be looking at individual factors, such as mental health and personality, but also family functioning, friendship networks as well as other local contextual factors.

Contact: Russell Turner, PhD Student of Social Work, Department of Social Work, Gothenburg University.

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