Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 289–299 | Cite as

High School Dropouts in Emerging Adulthood: Substance Use, Mental Health Problems, and Crime

  • Brandy R. MaynardEmail author
  • Christopher P. Salas-Wright
  • Michael G. Vaughn
Original Paper


This study examined the distribution of substance use, mental health, and criminal behavior among dropouts derived from a nationally representative sample of 18–25 year old (N = 19,312) emerging adults in the United States. Using public-use data from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this study employed multiple logistic regression with adjustments for complex survey sampling and compared high school dropouts with graduates with respect to substance use, mental health, and criminal behavior. After controlling for the effects of age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, receipt of government assistance, employment status, and metropolitan population density, dropouts were more likely to meet criteria for nicotine dependence and report daily cigarette use, and more likely to report having attempted suicide in the previous year, been arrested for larceny, assault, drug possession or drug sales relative to their high school graduate counterparts. The findings of this study provide important insights and an initial epidemiologic portrait of mental health, substance use, and criminal behaviors of dropouts during emerging adulthood.


High school dropouts Emerging adulthood Mental health Substance use 



The authors are grateful for the support from the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, the Greater Texas Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences grants (R324A100022 & R324B080008) and from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P50 HD052117). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the supporting entities.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandy R. Maynard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher P. Salas-Wright
    • 2
  • Michael G. Vaughn
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social WorkSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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