This review examines the evidence for longitudinal predictors of substance use and abuse in emerging adulthood. Nationally representative data from the 2007 National Survey on Drug use and Health suggest that many substance use problems reach their peak prevalence during emerging adulthood (usually defined as the period from age 18 to age 26). This stage of development is characterized by rapid transitions into new social contexts that involve greater freedom and less social control than experienced during adolescence. Concurrent with this newfound independence is an increase in rates of substance use and abuse. Understanding the risk and protective factors associated with emerging adult substance use problems is an important step in developing interventions targeting those problems. While multiple reviews have examined risk and protective factors for substance use during adolescence, and many of these earlier predictors may predict emerging adult substance use, few studies have focused primarily on the emerging adult outcomes examining predictors from both adolescence and emerging adulthood. This review used the databases PubMed and PsycInfo to identify articles pertaining to longitudinal predictors of substance use problems in emerging adulthood, building from the conceptual framework presented in a review on risk and protective factors for adolescent substance abuse by Hawkins and colleagues (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992). Predictors identified as predictors of substance use in adolescence, sometimes decreased in strength and in one case reversed direction. Unique predictors in emerging adulthood were also identified. Implications for prevention science during adolescence and emerging adulthood are discussed as well as suggestions for future research.
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