Why now? Examining antecedents for substance use initiation among African American adolescents

Tamika C.B. Zapolski, Tianyi Yu, Gene H. Brody, Devin E. Banks, Allen W. Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current adolescent substance use risk models have inadequately predicted use for African Americans, offering limited knowledge about differential predictability as a function of developmental period. Among a sample of 500 African American youth (ages 11-21), four risk indices (i.e., social risk, attitudinal risk, intrapersonal risk, and racial discrimination risk) were examined in the prediction of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette initiation during early (ages 11-13), mid (ages 16-18), and late (ages 19-21) adolescence. Results showed that when developmental periods were combined, racial discrimination was the only index that predicted initiation for all three substances. However, when risk models were stratified based on developmental period, variation was found within and across substance types. Results highlight the importance of racial discrimination in understanding substance use initiation among African American youth and the need for tailored interventions based on developmental stage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-734
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • African Americans
  • adolescence
  • alcohol
  • initiation
  • marijuana
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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