Aims: Use pattern-centered methods to examine how adolescents' alcohol use and sports activities are related both to childhood sport and problem behavior and to heavy drinking in early adulthood.
Design: The data used in this study come from four waves of the Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions (MSALT) that began in 1983, when participants were approximately age 12, and continued into early adulthood, when participants were approximately age 28.
Participants: Sixty per cent of the approximately 1000 MSALT youth living in south-eastern Michigan were females and 97% were European American. Approximately 28% of one or both parents held at least a college degree, and 45% held a high school diploma or lower.
Findings: Pattern-centered analyses revealed that the relation between adolescent sport activity and age 28 heavy alcohol use obtained primarily for sport participants who were also using more than the average amount of alcohol and other drugs at age 18. Similarly, children who were characterized by relatively high levels of sport participation, aggression and other problem behavior at age 12 were more likely than expected by chance to become sport participants who used more than the average amount of alcohol and other drugs at age 18.
Conclusions: The results indicate that childhood problem behavior and adolescent sport participation can, but do not necessarily, presage heavy drinking in adulthood and that pattern-centered analytical techniques are useful for revealing such theoretically generated predictions.