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Child Dev. 1995 Aug;66(4):1198-214.

Individual and peer characteristics in predicting boys' early onset of substance abuse: a seven-year longitudinal study.

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  • 1McGill University, Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Early onset of substance abuse is a clear marker for future maladjustment in adolescents. The present study employed data originating from 755 6-year-old boys from low SES neighborhoods, who were followed through age 13, to predict this marker, 3 models were tested using LISREL analyses to determine whether individual characteristics and/or peer influences were linked to subsequent substance abuse. Individual characteristics consisted of fighting, hyperactivity, oppositional behaviors, and likability. Peer influences referred to mutual friends' characteristics (aggressiveness and likability). Data were obtained from 3 different sources: teacher ratings, peer ratings, and self-reports. Results were replicated at ages 10, 11, and 12 years with 3 subsamples of the original sample and indicated that individual characteristics, more than friends' deviance, are pivotal in the development of substance abuse. This finding is consistent with results from other longitudinal studies involving children from a variety of cultural backgrounds. It suggests that prevention programs should target individual characteristics and begin at an early age.

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