Environmental factors associated with adolescent antisocial behavior in a poor urban community in Brazil

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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
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Curto B.M.
Paula C.S.
Do Nascimento R.
Murray J.
Bordin I.A.
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Background: Investigating risk factors for anti-social behavior (ASB) is particularly relevant in a poor urban and violent community of a developing country where homicide is the primary cause of death among 15-24-year olds. Objectives: To identify individual and environmental factors associated with ASB in adolescents from an urban poor community in the outskirts of São Paulo City, Brazil. Method: This cross-sectional study was based on a probabilistic sample of clusters that included all eligible households (women aged 15-49 years with a son or daughter <18 years of age). One mother-child pair was randomly selected per household (n = 813; response rate: 82.4%). This study is focused on the age group 11-17 years (n = 248). ASB was identified by externalizing scores in the clinical range on the Child Behavior Checklist and/or the Youth Self Report. Potential correlates included individual, maternal, paternal, and familial characteristics. Backward logistic regression analysis identified independent correlates and significant interactions. Findings: Youths with high ASB scores were more likely to be victims of severe physical punishment and have an absent father/substitute. Maternal anxiety/depression was a risk factor only among older adolescents (15-17 years), while the presence of internalizing problems was a risk factor only among younger adolescents (11-14 years). Having a non-working mother increased the risk for ASB only among low-income adolescents. Conclusion: The recognition that certain environmental factors may have harmful effects on adolescents' mental health, and the identification of more vulnerable groups can contribute to the development of effective strategies for prevention and treatment of ASB. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.
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