Is the association between alcohol use and delinquency causal or spurious

Richard Felson, Jukka Savolainen, Mikko Aaltonen, Heta Moustgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

54 Scopus citations


We attempt to isolate the effects of alcohol on different types of delinquent behavior by identifying the spurious portion of the relationship. Using data on adolescents from Finland, we compare the relationship between drinking and delinquent behavior while sober to the total relationship between drinking and delinquent behavior (sober or not). For each type of offense, we find a substantial relationship between drinking and sober delinquency, which suggests a good deal of spuriousness. For crimes of petty theft (shoplifting and stealing from home), the relationship between drinking and sober delinquency is just as strong as the total relationship, which suggests the relationship is almost completely spurious. For violence, vandalism, car theft, and graffiti writing, the alcohol-sober delinquency relationship is weaker, which suggests that alcohol has a causal effect on these offenses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-808
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008



  • Alcohol
  • Finland
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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