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To examine bidirectional influences of onset of psychiatric disorders and nicotine dependence among adolescent smokers.A prospective longitudinal cohort of adolescents and mothers drawn from a large city school system. Adolescents were interviewed five times and mothers three times over 2 years.Chicago, Illinois.Subsample of adolescent smokers (n = 814).Selected DSM-IV psychiatric disorders, nicotine dependence and selected risk factors were ascertained.Among lifetime smokers, 53.7% experienced at least one nicotine dependence criterion; 26.1% full dependence; 14.1% experienced an anxiety disorder, 18.8% a mood disorder and 29.5% a disruptive disorder. Nicotine dependence and psychiatric disorders were comorbid: nicotine-dependent youths had higher rates of individual and multiple disorders than those not dependent. Controlling for other covariates, mood disorder and nicotine dependence did not predict each other; anxiety disorder predicted nicotine dependence. Bidirectional influences were observed for disruptive disorder and nicotine dependence. Predictors of onset of full nicotine dependence included earlier onset age of tobacco use, high initial pleasant sensitivity to tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use, abuse and dependence and parental nicotine dependence. Predictors of psychiatric disorder onset included gender, race/ethnicity, other psychiatric disorders, illicit drug abuse or dependence and parental depression and delinquency.Initial pleasant experiences of smoking are predictive of later development of nicotine dependence. There may be reciprocal influences between disruptive disorder and development of nicotine dependence in adolescence, and intergenerational transmission of parental nicotine dependence and psychopathology.