Mediators of the stress-substance-use relationship in urban male adolescents

Prev Sci. 2006 Jun;7(2):113-26. doi: 10.1007/s11121-006-0027-4.


Exposure to chronic or severe acute stressors throughout the lifespan has been linked with numerous negative behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and physical consequences. Adolescence is considered to be a particularly vulnerable period given that the brain is experiencing dramatic developmental change during this time. The present study examined a sample of adolescents (N=125) considered to be at high risk for stress exposures and drug use by virtue of their environment and low income levels to identify possible neurocognitive (i.e., impulsivity, delay of gratification, emotional perception, and risky decision-making) and social competency mechanisms that may mediate this relationship. Using Mplus, a mediational model was tested using full information maximum likelihood estimates. Risky decision-making and poor social competency skills were related to previous stressful experiences; however, only social competencies mediated the effect of stressors on reports of past year marijuana, alcohol, and polydrug use. As such, stress appears to exert its negative impact through alterations in abilities to generate and execute prosocial decisions and behaviors. Interventions that directly address the effects of stress on social competencies may be especially important for children who have experienced adversity including those exposed to parental divorce, parental psychopathology, neglect or abuse, parental death, and poverty.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Self Efficacy
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Urban Population*