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Dev Psychol. 2010 Nov;46(6):1543-55. doi: 10.1037/a0020549.

A mixture-model approach to linking ADHD to adolescent onset of illicit drug use.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Prior research findings have been mixed as to whether attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is related to illicit drug use independent of conduct problems (CP). With the current study, the authors add to this literature by investigating the association between trajectories of ADHD symptoms across childhood and adolescence and onset of illicit drug use, with and without controlling for CP. In a longitudinal panel study of a community sample of 754 girls and boys recruited in kindergarten, this research question was examined with a combination of growth mixture modeling (to model parent-reported ADHD symptom trajectories) and survival analysis (to model youth-reported initiation of illicit drug use). Results revealed a 3-class model of ADHD trajectories, with 1 class exhibiting no or minimal symptoms throughout childhood and adolescence, another class showing a convex shape (an increase, then a decrease in symptoms) across time, and a third class showing a concave shape (a decrease, then a slight increase in symptoms) over time. The concave-trajectory class demonstrated significantly earlier onset of illicit drug use than the minimal-problem class, with the convex-trajectory class falling between (but not significantly different from either of the other two classes). These results did not change when the authors added CP to the model as a covariate. Implications of findings for theory and practice are discussed.

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