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.
Keywords: Adolescence; Ambient fine particles; Delinquency; Environmental exposures; Epidemiologic studies; Longitudinal studies.