Objective: Most adolescents experiment with alcohol, and the use of alcohol typically escalates during the teenage years. The present study examined how several risk and protective factors measured during early adolescence were associated with heavy drinking in a sample of high school seniors.
Method: As part of a school-based survey, seventh-grade students (N = 1,132) reported degrees of experimentation with alcohol and cigarettes. Several psychosocial factors deemed to be important in the etiology of drinking were also assessed. Students were followed-up in the twelfth grade, when 16% were categorized as heavy drinkers based on drinking and drunkenness frequency and quantity typically consumed.
Results: Logistic regression analyses revealed that heavy drinking was predicted by having had experimented with alcohol or cigarettes, having had a majority of one's friends drink and having had poor behavioral self-control in early adolescence. In addition, several effects were limited to either boys or girls. For example, positive alcohol expectancies predicted greater later heavy drinking in boys, while friends' smoking predicted later heavy drinking in girls.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that early intervention programs aimed at preventing alcohol use by addressing the social and psychological determinants of alcohol use may have important preventive effects in terms of later heavy drinking.