Early pubertal maturation in the prediction of early adult substance use: a prospective study

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Abstract

Aims

To examine whether self-reporting a later stage of pubertal development in early adolescence predicts young adults' use of illicit drugs.

Design

Population-based prospective birth cohort study.

Setting

Follow-up of a cohort of mothers and their children, recruited between 1981 and 1983.

Participants

Cohort of 2710 young adults who completed a self-report questionnaire about their use of cannabis and amphetamines at the 21-year follow-up.

Measurements

Young adults' use of cannabis and amphetamines were measured at the 21-year follow-up. Stage of pubertal development was assessed at the 14-year follow-up. Potential confounding and mediating variables were assessed between birth and when the child was 14 years.

Findings

Of 2710 young adults, 49.9% (47.3 females and 52.7% males) reported that they had used cannabis and 21.0% (18.9% females and 23.3% males) reported that they had used amphetamines and cannabis by 21 years. In multivariate analyses, adolescents with a later stage of puberty were more likely to use cannabis or amphetamines in young adulthood. This association was not confounded by mother's education or child's gender and age. Part of the relationship was explained by the higher frequency of child externalizing behaviour at 14 years.

Conclusions

The findings warrant further attention to puberty as a sensitive period in an individual's development. With regard to prevention, there is a need to understand more about the pathways between pubertal development, child behaviour problems and substance use.

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