Objective: This study examines the growth of neighborhood disorder and subsequent marijuana use among urban adolescents transitioning into young adulthood.
Method: Data are derived from a longitudinal sample of 434 predominately African American 12th graders followed-up at 2 years after high school. The data are rich in repeated measures documenting substance use and misuse and neighborhood characteristics. Growth mixture modeling was used to examine how neighborhood disorder trajectories, measured through the presence of abandoned buildings on the blocks where participants reside, influence subsequent drug use beginning in late adolescence and into young adulthood.
Results: A four-class solution characterizing neighborhood growth was selected as the final model and included rapidly improving, slightly improving, always-good, and deteriorating neighborhoods. Young adults living in neighborhoods that had been deteriorating over time were 30% more likely to use marijuana 2 years after high school than adolescents living in always-good neighborhoods (odds ratio = 1.30, p = .034). There was no relationship between living in a neighborhood that was improving and marijuana use.
Conclusions: This study identified a salient and malleable neighborhood characteristic, abandoned housing, which predicted elevated risk for young-adult marijuana use. This research supports environmental strategies that target abandoned buildings as a means to improve health and health behaviors for community residents, particularly young-adult substance use.