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Behavioral Control and Resiliency in the Onset of Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use: A Prospective Study From Preschool to Adolescence


  • This work was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism–R37 AA07065 to R.A.Z. and H.E.F. and R01 AA12217 to R.A.Z. and J.T.N. We are indebted to all participating families for their willingness to engage in the study. We are grateful to Susan Refior, Director of Field Operations in the Michigan Longitudinal Study, for her commitment and skill in maintaining this study's viability over a long time. We thank Linda Muthen, Bengt Muthen, the MPLUS technical support team, and King Yuen Yik for coming up with creative ideas to test our hypotheses.

concerning this article should be addressed to Maria M. Wong, Department of Psychology, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209-8112. Electronic mail may be sent to


The developmental trajectories of behavioral control and resiliency from early childhood to adolescence and their effects on early onset of substance use were examined. Behavioral control is the tendency to express or contain one's impulses and behaviors. Resiliency is the ability to adapt flexibly one's characteristic level of control in response to the environment. Study participants were 514 children of alcoholics and matched controls from a longitudinal community sample (Time 1 age in years: M=4.32, SD=0.89). Children with slower rates of increase in behavioral control were more likely to use alcohol and other drugs in adolescence. Children with higher initial levels of resiliency were less likely to begin using alcohol.