The impact of early school behavior and educational achievement on adult drug use disorders: A prospective study

Kate E. Fothergill, Margaret E. Ensminger, Kerry M. Green, Rosa M. Crum, Judith Robertson, Hee Soon Juon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Few longitudinal studies have examined the effects of education on drug use disorders among community populations of African Americans. This study explores the impact of multiple early education indicators on later problem drug use in an African American population followed for more than 35 years. The initial cohort comprised all 1st graders (N = 1242, 51% female) living in the Woodlawn community of Chicago in 1966. Follow-up assessments were conducted in adolescence (1975-76), early adulthood (1992-93), and mid adulthood (2002-03). One or both adult interviews were completed by 1053 individuals providing information for identifying lifetime drug use disorders. Logistic regression with multiple imputation revealed several important relationships between early education indicators and DSM-III-R/DSM-IV drug use disorders. Specifically, the risk for adult problem drug use was related to: underachievement in 1st grade; low 7th and 8th grade standardized math scores; both suspension from and skipping school in adolescence; not having a high school diploma (compared to having a college degree), and having a diploma or GED (compared to having a college degree). Also, 1st graders characterized as shy by their teachers were less likely to develop problem drug use in adulthood. Results indicate potential opportunities for targeted intervention at multiple life stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • African Americans
  • Classroom behaviors
  • Drug use disorders
  • Educational attainment
  • Longitudinal study
  • School performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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