American Sociological Association

Pathways from Early Childhood Adversity to Later Adult Drug Use and Psychological Distress: A Prospective Study of a Cohort of African Americans

Drawing on the life course perspective, this research addresses the direct and indirect pathways between childhood adversity and midlife psychological distress and drug use across a majority of the life span in an African American cohort (N = 1,242) followed from age 6 to 42 (1966 to 2002). Results from structural equation models highlight the impact of low childhood socioeconomic status (SES), poor maternal mental health, and the role of first-grade maladaptation in launching a trajectory of social maladaptation from age 6 to 42. Specifically, for men, we found a direct pathway from early low SES to drug use in mid adulthood and an indirect pathway to psychological distress through first-grade maladaptation and adolescent poor mental health. For females, early SES affected first-grade maladaptation and low school bonds, which then predicted later drug use.


Fothergill, K., Ensminger, M. E., Doherty, E. E., Juon, H.-S., Green, K. M.





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