Antecedents of Drinking among Young Adolescents with Different Alcohol Use Histories
Testing separate path analytic models for seventh grade users and nonusers, this study assesses the impact of cognitive, social influence, and behavioral antecedents on adolescent drinking three and twelve months later. For the group that had not tried alcohol by grade seven, the authors found that social influence factors — exposure to peers who drink or use marijuana and to adults who drink — foster more frequent alcohol use and binge drinking in the near term (three months later). The key peer influences on binge drinking were marijuana-specific. After twelve months, the child's own drinking experience during grade seven and peer and parental attitudes toward drugs emerge as important explanatory variables. For children who had already started drinking by grade seven, cognitive — as well as social and behavioral factors — affect near- and longer-term alcohol involvement. While the child's prior drinking habits have the strongest impact, baseline expectations of using alcohol also predict frequency of alcohol use and binge drinking after three and twelve months. Believing that alcohol use is harmful helps hold down increases in frequency of use (but not excessive use) as long as twelve months later. Engaging in deviant behavior or doing poorly in school did not predict future drinking among baseline nonusers, but did foretell which of the seventh-grade initiates were most likely to engage in binge drinking during grade eight. The authors discuss the study's implications for prevention.