Situational Correlates of Adolescent Substance Use: An Improved Test of the Routine Activity Theory of Deviant Behavior

Ellen de Jong, Wim Bernasco, Marre Lammers

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: To test the routine activity theory of deviance, we assess whether adolescents are most likely to use substances while they are involved in unstructured activities, in the presence of peers and in the absence of authority figures. We also test whether these situational factors interact. Methods: A time use instrument was applied to collect hour-by-hour information on activities and substance use from a sample of adolescents. To control for potential confounders, the effects of the three situational factors on substance use were estimated with fixed-effects logit models. Results: The findings show that adolescents’ substance use takes place during unstructured activities, when peers are present, and when authority figures are absent, and that these situational factors are not strengthened by each other. Conclusions: Supporting the routine activity theory of deviance, we conclude that unstructured activity, peer presence and absence of authority figures are situational factors that facilitate substance use. In contrast to what the theory proposes, and relevant for parents and professionals, these factors function independently and need not all be present simultaneously for deviant behavior to occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-850
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019


We thank Stijn Ruiter and Jeroen Weesie for advice on draft versions, Gerben Bruinsma, Evelien Hoeben, Kirsten Grandia, Lieven Pauwels and Frank Weerman for managing and coordinating data collection, and Per-Olof Wikström for sharing the space–time budget measurement instrument. We thank three anonymous reviewers of this journal for helpful comments and recommendations. Data collection was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Grant Number 431-09-021.

FundersFunder number
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek431-09-021


    • Adolescents
    • Criminological theory
    • Fixed effects logit
    • Routine activity theory of deviance
    • Substance use


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