Prior research using psychosocial developmental models have identified emotional detachment from family and susceptibility to peer pressure as predictors of adolescent substance use. Despite mixed support for the gateway hypothesis, less is known about how these psychosocial developmental factors facilitate adolescent substance use.
A study examined how age of first substance use, emotional detachment from parents, and susceptibility to peer pressure influence the progression from alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use to other illicit substance use (e.g., cocaine, hallucinogens).
The study used data from 5,792 adolescents over seven semesters of high school. Latent growth curve modeling was used to examine how age of first use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco predicted initial levels and changes in emotional detachment, peer pressure, and other illicit substance use.
Earlier age of first use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco predicted more initial detachment from parents, peer pressure, and a greater likelihood of initial use of other illicit substances. More initial emotional detachment was associated with increases in other illicit substance use. Earlier ages of first use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco had indirect effects on initial use of other illicit substances through initial emotional detachment.
Emotional detachment from parents and peer pressure impact the likelihood of other illicit substance use across the high school years. Prevention programmes may benefit by focusing on delaying the onset of first use of substance use and by preventing emotional detachment from parents and peer pressure, the researchers conclude.
Source: Martin I. Gallegos, Brittany Zaring-Hinkle, Nan Wang, James H. Bray, Detachment, peer pressure, and age of first substance use as gateways to later substance use, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 218, 2021, 108352,ISSN 0376-8716.