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Keywords:

  • African American;
  • aggressive and withdrawn behavior;
  • cocaine use;
  • etiology;
  • longitudinal study;
  • school achievement;
  • social bonds

ABSTRACT

Aims

To examine childhood antecedents of marijuana and cocaine use in adulthood.

Design

Epidemiological, longitudinal cohort study of African American first graders (age 6) followed to age 32.

Participants

Children (N = 1242) and families in the 57 first grade classrooms from Woodlawn, an inner-city community in Chicago. First grade teachers, mothers and children provided assessments over the life course. During adulthood, 952 participants were re-interviewed.

Measurements

First grade teacher behavior ratings, readiness for school tests, self-reports of adolescent drug use, social bonds and adult self-reports of drug use were the primary variables.

Findings

Males who were both shy and aggressive in first grade were more likely to be adult drug users compared to those who were neither. Shy females in first grade were less likely to be adult marijuana users than non-shy females. Adolescent social bonds did not moderate the relationships of earlier childhood behavior to adult drug use. Males who had a ‘high/superior’ readiness to learn scores in first grade were less likely to be cocaine users as adults, even though in earlier work we showed that they were more likely to initiate adolescent drug use. Females scoring as poor performers in first grade were less likely to ever use cocaine compared to females with higher scores.

Conclusions

The combination of shy and aggressive behavior is an important antecedent for later male drug use and may help distinguish those who will be persistent users in adulthood from those who experiment in adolescence.