Social Goals Impact Adolescent Substance Use through Influencing Adolescents’ Connectedness to Their Schools
Although developmental models of risk behavior highlight the role of school connectedness in the etiology of adolescent substance use, no studies to our knowledge have assessed longitudinal mediational models examining how adolescents form bonds to their school, and how the quality of those bonds relate to substance use. To address this gap, the current study used four waves of data, spanning ages 11–16 (grades 5–11), to examine the association between individual differences in agentic (Dominance/Power) and communal (Nurturance/Affiliation) social goals and school connectedness, and in turn, whether levels of school connectedness are associated with substance use. The community sample (N = 387, 55% female) was assessed annually and included non-Hispanic Caucasian (83.1%), African American (9.1%), Hispanic (2.1%), and Asian (1.0%), as well as youth of mixed ethnicity (4.7%). The results supported a mediational pathway whereby agentic goals were associated with low levels of school connectedness, which, in turn, were associated with high levels of substance use. Counter to our hypotheses, no association was found between communal goals and school connectedness. These findings provided initial evidence for the important role social goals play in shaping an adolescent’s connectedness to their school and risk for substance use.