Substance use progression from adolescence to early adulthood: Effortful control in the context of friendship influence and early-onset use

Timothy F. Piehler, Marie Hélène Véronneau, Thomas J. Dishion

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63 Scopus citations


In a sample of 998 ethnically diverse adolescents, a multiagent, multimethod approach to the measurement of adolescent effortful control, adolescent substance use, and friendship influence was used to predict escalations to early-adult tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use by ages 22-23. Structural equation modeling revealed that adolescent substance use and friends' substance use tended to be highly correlated and together were robust predictors of a problematic pattern of usage for all substances in early adulthood. In addition, the adolescent effortful control construct directly predicted progressions to problematic use of tobacco and marijuana, but not for alcohol. In the alcohol model, effortful control interacted with the construct of substance use lifestyle (based on adolescent alcohol use and friends' substance use) when predicting problematic alcohol use in early adulthood. Results held when comparing across genders and across ethnic groups. These findings emphasize the importance of addressing adolescent self-regulation in interventions designed to treat and prevent early-adult substance abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1045-1058
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This project was supported by grant DA 023480 to the first author and grants DA 07031, DA 13773, and DA 16110 to the third author from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. We acknowledge the contribution of the Project Alliance staff, our study families, and participating schools, all of whom made this study possible. We appreciate the support of Cheryl Mikkola in preparation of this manuscript. Correspondence regarding this research may be addressed to: Timothy F. Piehler, Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical Center, 2450 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 55454; 612-273-9753; Marie-Hélène Véronneau is now at the Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal.


  • Adolescence
  • Early adulthood
  • Effortful control
  • Peer influence
  • Substance use


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