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Psychol Addict Behav. 2011 Mar;25(1):69-79. doi: 10.1037/a0021958.

Changes in self-control problems and attention problems during middle school predict alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use during high school.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525, USA.


Although deficits in impulse control have been linked to adolescent use of alcohol and illicit drugs, less attention has been given to variability in change in impulse control across adolescence and whether this variability may be a signal of risk for early substance use. The goals of the current study were to examine growth in two aspects of impulse control, self-control problems and attention problems, across middle adolescence, and to test the prospective effects of level and change in these variables on levels and change over time in substance use. Data are from a community sample of 955 adolescents interviewed (along with their parents and teachers) annually from 6th to 11th grade. Results indicated that greater self-control problems and attentional problems in the 6th grade and increases in these problems over time were associated with higher levels of substance use at 11th grade. Our results suggest that modeling change over time enhances the understanding of how impulse control influences the development of substance use.

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