Vulnerability for substance misuse is highest among youth who experience multiple contextual risks, such as birth-related risks and socioeconomic disadvantage, during early development. Indeed, cumulative risk, defined as the number of contextual risk factors independent of the presence or absence of any particular risk, is a robust predictor of adolescent and young adult substance misuse. However, there are significant gaps in knowledge about the associations of cumulative contextual risk with substance misuse. Cumulative risk often has been studied as a static phenomenon, therefore the degree to which such risk accumulates both within and across time is unknown. Moreover, research in the cumulative risk tradition typically has examined substance misuse as a singular outcome, yet substance misuse often co-occurs with externalizing and internalizing problems. Importantly, potential mediating mechanisms and moderating influences infrequently have been considered in analyses of cumulative risk effects on substance misuse, and gender moderation rarely has been tested. Substance misuse is a prevalent public health concern, and substance misuse comorbidity is associated with heightened impairment compared to singular problems;thus, additional research is needed. The current grant application helps address these gaps by proposing to study cumulative contextual risk both within and across time during early development in relation to substance misuse and co- occurring externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence and early adulthood (Aim 1). Social developmental mediators will be examined as intervening mechanisms (Aim 2a) and tests of social developmental moderators hypothesized to buffer risk (Aim 2b) will be conducted using existing longitudinal data from the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort Study (NFBCS). The NFBCS is a large-scale birth cohort study with multi-informant (parent, teacher, adolescent), multi-source (surveys, population registries) data collected on a sample of 9,432 youth followed from the prenatal period to the 20s. Guided by the social development model (SDM), the central hypotheses are that there will be positive associations of cumulative risk with adolescent and young adult substance misuse and co-occurring problems, and that those associations will be mediated through SDM risk processes;SDM protective factors will serve as buffering moderators. Gender differences also will be explored. This application is highly innovative. The NFBCS is a unique, large-scale birth cohort study with an exceptionally broad range of biopsychological and social contextual assessments ideal for studying general risk and resilience processes.
Aims of the proposed study will be accomplished by an interdisciplinary team of investigators from both university and service provider settings to facilitate translation of findings into practice. Study findings hold promise for helping to promote resilience in the face of risk among vulnerable youth by elucidating potentially malleable mediators and moderators to target in selective preventive interventions.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is relevant to public health and the missions of both NIH and NIDA because it will elucidate the nature and timing of cumulative contextual risk effects on substance misuse and co-occurring problems, as well as identify potentially malleable mediators and buffering moderators that can be targeted in selective preventive interventions to promote resilience among vulnerable youth. The team is unique in being comprised of both university- based and service provider-based researchers who have experience translating study findings into practice for public health benefit.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Boyce, Cheryl A
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Father Flanagan's Boys'Home
Boys Town
United States
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Savolainen, Jukka; Eisman, Andria; Mason, W Alex et al. (2018) Socioeconomic disadvantage and psychological deficits: Pathways from early cumulative risk to late-adolescent criminal conviction. J Adolesc 65:16-24
Parra, Gilbert R; Smith, Gail L; Mason, W Alex et al. (2018) Profiles of Contextual Risk at Birth and Adolescent Substance Use. J Child Fam Stud 27:717-724
Solomon, Starr J; Savolainen, Jukka; Mason, W Alex et al. (2017) Does Educational Marginalization Mediate the Path from Childhood Cumulative Risk to Criminal Offending? J Dev Life Course Criminol 3:326-346
Mason, W Alex; Patwardhan, Irina; Smith, Gail L et al. (2017) Cumulative contextual risk at birth and adolescent substance initiation: Peer mediation tests. Drug Alcohol Depend 177:291-298
Patwardhan, Irina; Mason, W Alex; Savolainen, Jukka et al. (2017) Childhood cumulative contextual risk and depression diagnosis among young adults: The mediating roles of adolescent alcohol use and perceived social support. J Adolesc 60:16-26
January, Stacy-Ann A; Mason, W Alex; Savolainen, Jukka et al. (2017) Longitudinal Pathways from Cumulative Contextual Risk at Birth to School Functioning in Adolescence: Analysis of Mediation Effects and Gender Moderation. J Youth Adolesc 46:180-196
Parra, Gilbert R; Smith, Gail L; Mason, W Alex et al. (2017) Tests of linear and nonlinear relations between cumulative contextual risk at birth and psychosocial problems during adolescence. J Adolesc 60:64-73
Mason, W Alex; January, Stacy-Ann A; Chmelka, Mary B et al. (2016) Cumulative contextual risk at birth in relation to adolescent substance use, conduct problems, and risky sex: General and specific predictive associations in a Finnish birth cohort. Addict Behav 58:161-6
Savolainen, Jukka; Mason, W Alex; Bolen, Jonathan D et al. (2015) The path from childhood behavioural disorders to felony offending: Investigating the role of adolescent drinking, peer marginalisation and school failure. Crim Behav Ment Health 25:375-88