U.S. Trends in Adolescent Substance Use and Conduct Problems and Their Relation to Trends in Unstructured In-Person Socializing With Peers

Jacob T. Borodovsky, Robert F. Krueger, Arpana Agrawal, Basant Elbanna, Margaretha de Looze, Richard A. Grucza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: This study examined whether national trends in unstructured in-person socializing with peers (i.e., socializing without goals or supervision) among adolescents could help explain recent declines in adolescent risk behaviors (e.g., substance use, fighting, theft). Methods: The sample contained of 44,842 U.S. 12th-grade students (aged 17–18 years) from the Monitoring the Future survey (years 1999–2017). Analyses examined (1) prevalence trends, (2) latent factor structure of risk behaviors and unstructured in-person socializing, and (3) whether trends in the unstructured in-person socializing factor accounted for the relationship between time (i.e., survey year) and the risk behavior factor. Results: Adolescent risk behaviors and unstructured in-person socializing declined by approximately 30% in the U.S., and both formed coherent latent factors. After adjusting for sociodemographics, declines in unstructured in-person socializing accounted for approximately 86% of declines in risk behaviors. Conclusions: The prevalence of risk behaviors and unstructured in-person socializing behaviors declined among U.S. 12th graders from 1999 to 2017. It is unknown whether such effects are directly causal and/or influenced by unmeasured variables. However, the results provide evidence that national declines in unstructured in-person socializing are a likely component of the explanation for national declines in adolescent risk behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-439
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Volume69
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Delinquency
  • Epidemiology
  • Multivariate modeling
  • Risk behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Unstructured socializing

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