The Pathways to Desistance Study: Analyzing the Life Event Calendar Data for Substance Abuse Research


Studies of adolescents indicate a high degree of co-occurrence of delinquency (self-reported offending and official arrests), and substance use (SU) problems. An estimated 1/3 of all serious juvenile offenders, including those not arrested for drug-related offenses, have SU disorders. Adolescents with co-occurring SU problems and delinquency are at highest risk for continued criminal activity, are likely to have SU problems in adulthood, and are likely to be unsuccessful in substance abuse treatment.

Despite this general picture of poor prognosis, many substance-abusing juvenile offenders will desist from one or both of these behaviors in early adulthood. Not known is how processes of desistance operate or what factors influence them. Without longitudinal data about the interaction of these two antisocial behaviors over time, only limited information is available to guide the design of effective programs and policies for these adolescents who use large amounts of resources and drive much of the policy debate in juvenile justice (Greenwood et al., 1996). Thus, a strong need exists to examine the reciprocal, over-time links between SU and criminal behavior.

The Pathways to Desistance study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of 1,354 serious adolescent offenders as they transition from adolescence into early adulthood (see Enrolled youth were at least 14 years old and under 18 years old at the time of their committing offense and were guilty of a serious offense. Each participant was followed for 7 years. The data offer an excellent opportunity to examine issues related to SU and offending during the transition from adolescence to adulthood (average age 16-23).

Attendees will gain a thorough understanding of the Pathways to Desistance study methods and sample (1/2 day) and the measures (1/2 day). A full day will be used to describe how the life-event calendar data were collected, how it is organized across the multiple calendar datasets, and how to use it in conjunction with data collected in regular, time-point interviews. The third day will discuss areas that can be pursued using the Pathways study data and for specific data-related questions from workshop participants. The course is a combination of lecture, discussion, and hands-on exercises.

Prerequisites: Participant should have a basic understanding of secondary data organization and manipulation, fundamental data analysis skills, working knowledge of SPSS and a substantive interest in substance use and dependence, particularly as related to offending behavior and developmental change. Knowledge of trajectory analysis (using SAS or MPLUS) is useful, as is experience with event history analysis or structural equation modeling.

Application: Admission to this workshop is competitive. Enrollment is limited to 25 participants.Apply using the Registration tab to provide your information, select the course, and provide your quantitative/statistical experience. Also, upload the following via the registration portal:

  • Current curriculum vita
  • Cover letter summarizing research interests and experiences
  • Priority will be given to applicants with immediate interest in using the Life Event Calendar data and who provide a research project description to do so, with reference to theory or historical context, how the project extends what is presently known, and why the Life Event Calendar data are needed for the project.

Deadline: Deadline for application is May 1, 2014. Fee: No tuition fees.

Tags: Pathways to Desistance, Life Event Calendar Data

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