Results indicated that T1 depression was a significant predictor of T3 Alcohol use and T3 school belonging. Specifically, we found a significant positive association from T1 depression to T2 alcohol use (B=0.077, SE=0.022, p < .05, 95% CI [0.038, 0.120]); in turn T2 alcohol use negatively predicted T3 school belonging (B=-0.056, SE=0.018, p < .05, 95% CI [-0.092, -0.020]). Furthermore, T1 depression negatively predicted T2 school belonging (B=-0.090, SE=0.018, p < .05, 95% CI [-0.125, -0.056]); in turn T2 school belonging negatively predicted T3 alcohol use (B=0.042, SE=0.021, p < .05, 95% CI [0.000, 0.083]). Additional paths were found between depression at T1 to T2, and from T2 depression to T3 alcohol use and T3 belonging. Finally, there was a significant path from T1 depression to T2 belonging, and T2 belonging to T3 depression. All paths were found in the expected direction; where alcohol use and depression positively predicted each other; but were negatively associated with school belonging.
Results suggest that depressive symptomology results in two trajectories of increased risk factors: 1) depression leads adolescents to increase risk for alcohol use, which in turn results in decreased sense of school belonging; and 2) depression leads adolescents to experience a lower sense of school belonging which leads to increased substance use. These results support prior research suggesting that school-wide based interventions that target a positive school climate and sense of belonging have the potential to mitigate alcohol use among adolescents (Cox, Zhang, & Bender, 2007; Fletcher, Bonell, Hargreaves, 2008). Based on the findings of this study, it may be important to develop interventions that increase sense of school belonging as a resiliency factor for reducing risk of substance use among adolescents, especially among those experiencing mental health concerns.