Individual and Neighborhood Influences On Alcohol Use in Early Adolescence
Alcohol is the most frequently used substance among young people. Early alcohol use is associated with the development of alcohol-related problems or other substance use in late adolescence or adulthood. A substantial body of prior literature has examined the effects of individual and socio-environmental factors on alcohol consumption in adolescents. Based on social disorganization theory, community factors may influence alcohol and other drug use. However, relatively little research has focused on potential neighborhood effects on drinking in early adolescence. Therefore, the present study aims to examine the effects of both individual- and neighborhood-level factors on drinking among young adolescents.
Data for the present study were drawn from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), a community-based longitudinal cohort study of youth, their primary caregivers, and their neighborhood environments. The analysis sample included 2,927 children and youth interviewed at age 12, as well as their primary caregivers. A dichotomous measure of past month alcohol use was the dependent variable. A two-level multilevel logistic regression model was estimated to test individual and neighborhood level predictors of past month drinking. Individual level variables included CBCL internalizing and externalizing subscales and socio-demographics, and neighborhood- level constructs included social disorder, social cohesion, social capital, and social control. Demographic variables (measured at the individual level) included sex, race/ethnicity, educational level of primary caregivers, and family income.
Most fit statistics (-2LL, AIC, ABIC) indicated that the model including a random slope of sex fit the data better than the model with fixed effects only. However, intercept and slope does not vary significantly across the neighborhoods. Therefore, the fixed effects model was interpreted. Externalizing and internalizing behaviors, social cohesion, and social capital were significantly associated with past month alcohol use at age 12. Externalizing behavior was associated with increased risk of past month drinking (OR=1.12; p<.001), whereas internalizing symptoms were associated with a decreased likelihood of past-month drinking (OR=.95; p<.05). Neighborhood-level social cohesion and youth alcohol use displayed an inverse relationship (B=-6.99; p<.01), whereas social capital was positively associated with alcohol consumption among youth at age 12 (B=5.16; p<.05).
Conclusions and Implications:
Consistent with extant literature and theory, externalizing symptoms increase the likelihood of drinking alcohol, but contrary to some prior research, internalizing symptoms may decrease the likelihood of early drinking, suggesting early use is not a function of self-medication. Neighborhood level effects on alcohol use were mixed; social capital was associated with greater odds and cohesion with lower odds of past-month use. Neighborhood social cohesion may contribute to the supervision of youth in neighborhoods, whereas neighborhood social capital may be related to other social factors such as neighborhood affluence, associated with higher risk of drinking among youth. Future research should consider differential effects of neighborhood factors on drinking in early adolescence, such as the interplay of externalizing symptoms and social cohesion. Neighborhood-level prevention and early-intervention efforts may be warranted.