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Adolescent Substance Use: Latent Class and Transition Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2018
6 pages
Hye J. Choi; Yu Lu; Marya Schulte; Jeff R. Temple
This study modeled adolescent substance use transition patterns over 3 years, based on a comprehensive list of substances; and it examined gender as a moderator.
Prevention and intervention for adolescent substance use is a public health priority. Most adolescents will engage in some form of substance use, and a sizeable minority will transition to using multiple substances. An emerging body of research takes a person-centered approach to model adolescent substance use over time; however, the findings have been equivocal. The current study used three annual waves of data (Time 2, Time 3, and Time 4) from an ongoing longitudinal study of an ethnically diverse sample of 1, 042 adolescents originally recruited from multiple high schools in southeast Texas. Participants were 56 percent female, 32 percent Hispanics, 30 percent Whites, 29 percent African-Americans, and 9 percent other, with an average of 16.1 years (SD = 0.79) at Time 2. Data were analyzed using latent transition analyses. The study identified three substance-use statuses (mild alcohol use, alcohol and moderate marijuana use, and polysubstance use) and suggested that adolescents generally remained in the same statuses over time. When they did transition, it was typically to a more harmful substance use status. Further, males were more likely than females to be polysubstance users and had higher probabilities of transitioning to and remaining in a more harmful drug-use status. Thus, the study identified overall and gender-specific adolescent substance-use transition patterns, which are vital to informing intervention development. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Created: July 20, 2021