Delinquent teens marry earlier than their peers while substance-abusing teens, especially girls who abuse marijuana, marry later than their peers, if at all, according to a broad-based study.
Delinquency was defined as anti-social behaviour, including frequency of running away, arrests, physical fights and behavioural problems in school.
The study analysed data from a US department of education survey collected from a nationally representative sample of 9,813 young adults (5,331 females and 4,482 males) from 1988 to 2000.
The results are significant, said Sampson Lee Blair, associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo (UB), who conducted the study. In the US marriage is commonly regarded as offering substantial economic, social and health advantages for individuals, he said.
The vast majority of high school girls -- much more so than boys -- tend to view marriage as "extremely important" to them.
But adolescent substance abuse and delinquent behaviours, he said, clearly have far-reaching consequences for the marital status of young adults, particularly girls.
"Most previous studies have focused on the relatively short-term effects of adolescent
substance use and delinquency," he said, "but here we find good evidence that, for both sexes, delinquent behaviour is linked to an increase in the likelihood of marriage and a lower age of first marriage.
On the other hand, adolescents with relatively high levels of abuse of alcohol and
marijuana have a lower likelihood of marriage even by their late 20s, said an UB release.
"The likelihood of marriage by that age is substantially lower among female adolescent
substance abusers, particularly if the substance abused is marijuana."
Blair said the results suggest that delinquency and substance abuse may influence adolescents' orientation towards other adult roles as well.
The results were presented at the March conference of the Eastern Sociological Society in Baltimore.