From Lifelines and Risks
Cairns and Cairns (1995).


39% of risk group compared to l6% of control group became teenage parents

42% of risk group compared to l3% of control group dropped out of school early. A highly significant difference.

29% of risk group who stayed in school, compared to ll% of control group, failed a grade or were retained.

26% of risk group compared to 5% of control group committed criminal offenses (assault, breaking & entering, drug dealing, vandalism)

Numbers of subjects in the overall study who used tobacco (88%), alcohol (64%), and illegal drugs (marijuana l9% and cocaine 3%) were similar to the national norms.

Findings in this sample:

Clustering of early risk characteristics:

Simple diagnostic procedure in identifying the most aggressive kids in school:
Ask teachers and principals to identify them.

In developmental predictions, there can be:


"Most positive and negative characteristics occur in clusters."

Many difficulties and successes in life can be linked together--one leading to another.
This can act to constrain freedom in choice and action.

Problems are interwoven in life; they do not appear as separate events. They can not necessarily be lifted out of context.

Choice of friends and activities help to perpetuate the earlier influences in life.

Individuals whose lives are at risk have hidden competencies but their strengths may be overshadowed by the deviant or unconventional nature of their adaptations.

*One can be entrenched in a given developmental trajectory then be deflected from it.

*Most shifts in a trajectory do not endure due to the "balance of external and internal constraints."

A "developmental homeostasis" exists in an individual's social development.

In general, conservatism and regularity characterize a life course, even when changes occur in daily life.

"The longitudinal findings show that there is considerable order in the development of deviant behavior, despite individuality and diversity."

Girls with histories of high risk events (abuse, neglect, drop out, very early marriage) and who negotiated a successful adolescence received a high level of help and support from unrelated women.
Boys who remained in unchanged home and school environments and who developed or excelled in a skill such as in sports, drama, and music greatly increased in their integration and adaption to the conventional school social network.

Enduring changes in a developmental trajectory were in whole configurations of influence, rather than a single characteristic or influence.

These configurations include:

Changes which have endured have typically involved:
"A trusting relationship with a responsible adult who is committed to the child..." and shifts in the behaviors and goals of the child.

View a PowerPoint presentation on Teen Risk Factors, which incorporates much of the material above.

Go to Discussion Questions.

Go back to Introduction.

Go back to Instructions.

Get information about (or buy) the book Lifelines and Risks: Pathways of Youth in Our Time by Robert B. Cairns & Beverley D. Cairns (1995), which provided the theoretical and empirical basis for this game/simulation. [book cover]

Go to Psychology page.