Trajectories of risk behaviors across adolescence and young adulthood: The role of race and ethnicity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Robin Bartlett, Associate Professor (Creator)
Jennifer Toller Erausquin, Associate Professor (Creator)
Thomas McCoy, Statistician (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Introduction: Despite important advances of longitudinal research in substance use behaviors, most studies stratify analyses by gender or race, which limits the ability to directly compare the likelihood of a particular developmental pathway across demographic groups. Thus, there is critical need for well-designed research to examine the associations of race/ethnicity with developmental trajectories of substance use behaviors across adolescence through adulthood.

Methods: Using an accelerated longitudinal design, we examined behaviors across ages 12–31 from Waves I–IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. We performed growth mixture modeling, resulting in estimated trajectories over time. Next, we assessed the association between race/ethnicity and trajectory membership using multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Five trajectories resulted for marijuana use, four for cigarette smoking, three for smokeless tobacco use and number of days drunk, and two trajectories for heavy episodic drinking. Controlling for gender and family socioeconomic status, African Americans and Hispanics were less likely than non-Hispanic Whites to use cigarettes or smokeless tobacco early or to use alcohol heavily.

Conclusions: Substance use behavior development follows different pathways for US adolescents and young adults, with some individuals experimenting earlier in adolescence and others beginning to use later in adolescence or in early adulthood. We extend developmental knowledge about these behaviors by demonstrating that the patterns of behavior vary by race/ethnicity; members of lower-risk trajectories (those involving later or no initiation of substance use) are more likely to be African American or Hispanic than to be non-Hispanic White.

Additional Information

Addictive Behaviors, 76, 1-7
Language: English
Date: 2018
Substance use behavior, Adolescent behavior, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), Race/ethnicity, Developmental trajectory

Email this document to