Emerging adulthood (ages 18 to 25) is characterized by changes in relationships, education, work, and viewpoints on life. The prevalence of substance use also peaks during this period. Among emerging adults, Hispanics have a unique substance use profile, and have been described as a priority population for substance use prevention. Cross-sectional studies among Hispanics have shown that specific role transitions (e.g., starting or ending romantic relationships) were associated with substance use. Negative affect from uncertainty/stress that accompanies role transitions in emerging adulthood may lead to substance use as a maladaptive coping mechanism. Longitudinal studies are needed to gain a more complete understanding of these associations.
Participants completed surveys for Project RED, a longitudinal study of substance use among Hispanics in Southern California. This study used Coarsened Exact Matching to overcome the methodological limitations of previous studies. Participants were matched on pretreatment variables including age, gender, substance use behavior in high school, and depressive symptoms. Past-month cigarette use, binge drinking, marijuana use, and hard drug use were the outcomes of interest. After matching, each outcome was regressed on each individual role transition in year one of emerging adulthood with this process repeated in year two of emerging adulthood.
Role transitions in romance and work were positively associated with multiple categories of substance use.
Prevention programs should teach emerging adults ways to cope with the stress from role transitions. Individual role transitions may be used to screen for subgroups of emerging adults at high risk for substance use.