Method. Data were collected biennially from 662 youth in six assessments across ten years (2003 – 2013). Youth were ages 12 to 18 at baseline (W1; N = 662; 48% male Mage = 15.5, SD = 1.9) and 22 to 29 at the final wave (W6; N = 478; 45% male; Mage = 25.8, SD = 2.0). We used latent transition analysis (LTA) that examined transitions between substance use classes (‘alcohol-dominant,’ ‘co-use of alcohol and marijuana,’ and ‘poly use’). School, employment, and relationship status were used as moderators of substance class use transitions in the LTA.
Results. Few differences were found during adolescence with most of the significant findings occurring in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood (i.e., W4 to W6). School, employment, and romantic relationship status disrupted problematic substance use patterns during this time, such that, individuals that indicated entering school, working full-time, or getting married or entering a relationship were more likely to transition to a low-risk substance use class than to remain in the high-risk class.
Conclusions. Findings underscore the importance of school completion, obtaining stable career employment, and getting married and starting a family to reduce high-risk substance use patterns leading into young adulthood. These social-contextual moderators can play a key positive role in the transition to young adulthood. Prevention and intervention efforts should consider the diverse needs of youth and be prepared to provide a wide range of services that include educational opportunities and career development in efforts to reduce high-risk substance use patterns.