We tested a theoretical model of early-onset substance (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana) use. A sample of 1,810 public school students was surveyed in sixth grade (M age 11.5 years) and seventh grade. Temperament dimensions were related to substance use, and structural modeling analyses showed indirect effects through self-control constructs. Good self-control had a path to higher academic competence and had direct effects to less peer use and less adolescent substance use; poor self-control had a path to more adolescent life events and more deviant peer affiliations. Academic competence and life events had indirect effects to adolescent substance use, through peer affiliations. Findings from self-report data were corroborated by independent teacher ratings. Effects were also noted for family variables and demographic characteristics. Implications of epigenetic theory for prevention research are discussed.