The Emerging Adult Reasons for Substance Use (EARS): Preliminary Support for Multidimensionality, Validity and Reliability

Douglas C. Smith, Jordan P. Davis, Sa Shen, Heloísa Garcia Claro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Substance use peaks during the transition to adulthood, beckoning additional research on its developmental influences. This article reports initial findings on the validity and reliability of the Emerging Adult Reasons for Substance use (EARS), a new measure of substance use motives based on Arnett’s (2000) proposed emerging adult dimensions. Method: Content experts in emerging adulthood theory generated EARS items and collected data from a large online sample. We completed exploratory (EFA) and confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) on split halves of the total sample (n = 750). Then, we tested for invariance across genders and age cohorts, as well as examined cross-correlations with the Inventory of Dimensions of Emerging Adulthood (IDEA), Drinking Motives Questionnaire (DMQ-Revised), and measures of substance use. Results: The EFA identified three internally consistent factors: Normative Expectancy, Developmental Strain, and Subjective Invulnerability. Confirmatory factor analyses supported the three factor model, but fit indices were slightly below published standards (RSMEA =.82, CFI =.85, TLI =.83, SRMR =.07). For Normative Expectancy and Developmental Strain, intercepts varied across age cohorts, with higher intercepts for emerging relative to older adults. The patterns of correlations generally supported the construct validity of the EARS subscales. Conclusion: The EARS is reliable and valid, and appears to measure developmentally specific motives for substance use. Additional studies may further validate this promising instrument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Emerging adulthood
  • alcohol use
  • confirmatory factor analysis
  • substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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