Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1283–1293 | Cite as

Longitudinal Analysis of Particulate Air Pollutants and Adolescent Delinquent Behavior in Southern California

  • Diana YounanEmail author
  • Catherine Tuvblad
  • Meredith Franklin
  • Fred Lurmann
  • Lianfa Li
  • Jun Wu
  • Kiros Berhane
  • Laura A. Baker
  • Jiu-Chiuan Chen


Animal experiments and cross-sectional human studies have linked particulate matter (PM) with increased behavioral problems. We conducted a longitudinal study to examine whether the trajectories of delinquent behavior are affected by PM2.5 (PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) exposures before and during adolescence. We used the parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist at age 9–18 with repeated measures every ~2–3 years (up to 4 behavioral assessments) on 682 children from the Risk Factors for Antisocial Behavior Study conducted in a multi-ethnic cohort of twins born in 1990–1995. Based on prospectively-collected residential addresses and a spatiotemporal model of ambient air concentrations in Southern California, monthly PM2.5 estimates were aggregated to represent long-term (1-, 2-, 3-year average) exposures preceding baseline and cumulative average exposure until the last assessment. Multilevel mixed-effects models were used to examine the association between PM2.5 exposure and individual trajectories of delinquent behavior, adjusting for within-family/within-individual correlations and potential confounders. We also examined whether psychosocial factors modified this association. The results sμggest that PM2.5 exposure at baseline and cumulative exposure during follow-up was significantly associated (p < 0.05) with increased delinquent behavior. The estimated effect sizes (per interquartile increase of PM2.5 by 3.12–5.18 μg/m3) were equivalent to the difference in delinquency scores between adolescents who are 3.5–4 years apart in age. The adverse effect was stronger in families with unfavorable parent-to-child relationships, increased parental stress or maternal depressive symptoms. Overall, these findings sμggest long-term PM2.5 exposure may increase delinquent behavior of urban-dwelling adolescents, with the resulting neurotoxic effect aggravated by psychosocial adversities.


Adolescence Delinquency Ambient fine particles Environmental exposures Epidemiologic studies Longitudinal studies 



This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R21 ES022369 and F31 ES025080) and the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (5P30ES007048). The USC Twin Cohort Study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH058354). The authors thank the staff and participants of the USC Twin Cohort Study for their time and effort.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent (assent for children) was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and SciencesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.School of Law, Psychology and Social WorkÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden
  4. 4.Sonoma Technology, Inc.PetalumaUSA
  5. 5.Irvine College of Health SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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