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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Predicting high-risk versus higher-risk substance use during late adolescence from early adolescent risk factors using latent class analysis


Much of the existing risk factor literature focuses on identifying predictors of low levels of substance use versus higher-levels of substance use. In this article, we explore more nuanced patterns of alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use during late adolescence.
Our aims were to: (1) identify subgroups of youth with qualitatively different patterns of ATOD use and (2) explore whether membership among qualitatively distinct, high-risk classes could be predicted based on early adolescent risk factors.
Data came from a selected subsample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (n = 1689). Predictors were measured when youth were about 12 years old; ATOD use was assessed when youth were aged 17 years.
Results showed that adolescent ATOD use is not a homogenous behavior. Four distinct classes of adolescent ATOD users were derived. Each class had a qualitatively distinct and discriminable pattern of ATOD use. Ecological predictors were shown to differentiate between latent classes, with peer factors playing a particularly important role in differentiating between high-risk and higher-risk users.
Implications for prevention and limitations are discussed.
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