The Effect of Early Cognitions on Cigarette and Alcohol Use During Adolescence

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The present study predicts cigarette and alcohol use in adolescence from the development of children's cognitions in the elementary years. Using latent growth modeling, the authors examined a model using data from 712 participants in the Oregon Youth Substance Use Project, who were in the 2nd through 5th grade at the 1st assessment and followed for 6 annual or semiannual assessments over 7 years. Growth in children's prototypes and subjective norms in the elementary years (Times 1 through 4) were related to their substance use in adolescence (Time 6) through their willingness and intentions (Time 5) to smoke and drink. Across the sample, for both substances, the intercept and slope of prototypes were either indirectly related to use through willingness or directly related to use. Both the intercept and slope of subjective norms were indirectly related to use of both substances through both willingness and intentions and directly related to cigarette use. Results suggest that elementary children have measurable cognitions regarding substance use that develop during the elementary years and predict use later in adolescence. These findings emphasize the need for prevention programs targeted at changing children's social images of substance users and encouraging more accurate perceptions of peers' use.

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