Are educational aspirations associated with the risk of alcohol use and alcohol use-related problems among adolescents?

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Objective: Using prospective data, we hypothesized that public middle school students with high educational aspirations would report less alcohol use, and alcohol use-related problems in the subsequent year. Methods: The participants for these analyses included students, ages 11 to 14 years old, participating in a longitudinal study in an urban sample of public schools (n = 1229). As part of the prospective annual assessments of the students, in 1992 (t 0) and 1993 (t 1), data on educational aspirations and on alcohol use, and alcohol use-related problems were gathered. Latent variable modeling was used to assess the relationship between educational aspirations at baseline (to) and subsequent year drinking behavior (t 1) in two separate models, one to examine the relationship of educational aspirations with self-reported alcohol use (model 1), and another to examine the association with alcohol use-related problems (model 2). Potential confounding by age, sex, race-ethnicity, alcohol use by peers, self-reported school performance, and neighborhood environment was held constant in each model. In addition, each model took into account the prior year report of alcohol use and alcohol use-related problems, respectively. Results: The evidence indicated that students with high aspirations were no more nor less likely to report subsequent alcohol use [β = 0.15, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.19, 0.49; p = 0.38] nor alcohol use-relatedproblems (β = -0.009, CI = -0.07, 0.06; p = 0.80). Other characteristics were associated with alcohol use at follow-up and included race-ethnicity (being non-Black), neighborhood environment, and having friends who drink alcohol. Characteristics associated with alcohol use-related problems at the time of the follow-up interview also included race-ethnicity, peer drinking, neighborhood environment, as well as older age. Conclusions: Findings from the current study do not support the hypothesis that educational aspirations have significant influences on alcohol consumption or drinking problems in this study population of urban, predominantly Black students. As such, this work helps to advance our understanding of suspected relationships between educational aspirations, as well as factors associated with resilience to alcohol use and the occurrence of alcohol use-related problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-169
Number of pages19
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Adolescence
  • Alcohol
  • Educational aspirations
  • Risk factors
  • Schooling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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