Stages and Pathways of Drug Involvement: Examining the Gateway Hypothesis

By Denise B. Kandel | Go to book overview

2
Drug Sequences, Age of Onset, and Use
Trajectories as Predictors of Drug
Abuse/Dependence in Young Adulthood
Erich Labouvie and Helene R. White

According to Wohlwill (1973), developmental trajectories can be described in terms of a variety of parameters indicating presence of change; direction of change; shape of trajectory; values of maxima, minima, or terminal levels; sequencing of events; timing of events; and/or age corresponding to specified values of any of those characteristics. The sheer number of possible parameters serves as a reminder that whichever one is used in empirical studies can only provide a very incomplete picture of individual differences in developmental trajectories. The empirical study of such parameters can be aimed at two somewhat different objectives. First, researchers may be interested in identifying the factors and mechanisms that produce individual differences in a parameter of interest. Second, it is also desirable and useful to examine whether differences in a given parameter predict differences in relevant developmental outcomes at a later point in time. In this chapter, we are primarily concerned with the second objective. Ideally, the two approaches complement each other by focusing on the same or similar parameters. Unfortunately, however, theories of substance abuse and dependence provide little guidance as to which of the many available parameters are more or less useful for an understanding of the development of abuse and dependence in young adulthood. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this lack of theoretical guidance, empirical studies of the initiation and development of substance use in adolescence and early adulthood have primarily focused on the sequencing of

Preparation of this chapter was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (#DA/AA-03395) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (#03295).

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