Secular trends in disorder and psychosocial risks

Finally, it is important to consider how psychosocial risks may impact on overall levels of disorder. There is now clear evidence that rates of many adolescent disorders—including depression, suicide, alcohol and drug use, and delinquency—have risen since the Second World War. (!Z> Since it is implausible that changes in the gene pool could occur so rapidly, environmental risk factors must be implicated. Some of these may overlap with risks for individual differences in disorder, but others may be quite distinct. Based on an extensive review of available evidence, Rutter and Smith (ID concluded that a variety of factors are likely to be implicated:

1. increased rates of family breakdown, with their associated effects on the disruption of relationships and exposure to conflict and discord;

2. a change in the meaning of adolescence, with prolonged education and economic dependence on parents occurring alongside increased autonomy in other spheres;

3. a possibly increased disparity between young people's aspirations and the opportunities available to meet them;

4. increased alcohol consumption and illegal drug use;

5. changing social attitudes to acceptable behaviour, possibly enhanced by influences from the mass media.

Other specific factors may affect rates of juvenile crime. In particular, the increasing commercialization of youth culture, providing more goods to steal, may have coincided with diminished surveillance and increased situational opportunities for property crime.

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