Objective: To provide a comprehensive examination of childhood and adolescent predictors of alcohol abuse and dependence at age 21, theoretically guided by the social development model.
Method: Data were taken from an ethnically diverse urban sample of 808 students (51% male), surveyed at age 10 and followed prospectively to age 21 in 1996. Potential predictors of alcohol abuse and dependence at age 21 were measured at ages 10, 14 and 16. Relationships between these predictors and alcohol abuse and dependence were examined at each age, to assess changes in their patterns of prediction over time.
Results: Strong bonding to school, close parental monitoring of children and clearly defined family rules for behavior, appropriate parental rewards for good behaviors, high level of refusal skills and strong belief in the moral order predicted a lower risk for alcohol abuse and dependence at age 21. Of these, strong bonding to school consistently predicted lower alcohol abuse and dependence from all three ages (10, 14 and 16). By contrast, youths who had a higher risk of alcohol abuse and dependence at age 21 engaged in more problem behaviors, had more opportunities to be involved with antisocial individuals and spent more time with and were more bonded to those individuals, viewed fewer negative consequences from antisocial behaviors and held more favorable views on alcohol use. Of these, prior problem behaviors and antisocial opportunities and involvements at ages 10, 14 and 16 consistently predicted alcohol abuse and dependence at age 21.
Conclusions: These important malleable predictors, identifiable as early as age 10, provide potential intervention targets for the prevention of alcohol abuse and dependence in early adulthood.