Pubertal Development and Substance Use among Adolescent Girls: The Importance of Social Interactions and Social Contexts
Tanner-Smith, Emily E.
This dissertation examines the substance use risk associated with pubertal development among adolescent girls, focusing on the reasons why and how this relationship occurs. Three empirical studies are presented using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The first study examines the moderating role of body weight on the association between pubertal development and adolescent girls’ substance use, and emphasizes the changing relationship between pubertal development, substance use, and body weight as girls mature from early adolescence to late adolescence. The second study investigates why pubertal development is positively associated with adolescent girls’ substance use, focusing on the mediational role of intrapersonal self-appraisals and interpersonal social bonds. Finally, the third study examines the complex moderating roles of neighborhood contexts and race/ethnicity in the relationship between pubertal development and adolescent girls’ substance use. Results from the three studies highlight the importance of social interactions and social contexts in understanding why pubertal development is positively associated with adolescent girls’ substance use. Theoretical and policy implications of the studies include a more nuanced understanding of specific causal pathways of risk, population and developmental specificity of risk, and finally the importance of construct measurement.