The Interplay Between Marijuana-Specific Risk Factors and Marijuana Use Over the Course of Adolescence

  • Katarina GuttmannovaEmail author
  • Martie L. Skinner
  • Sabrina Oesterle
  • Helene R. White
  • Richard F. Catalano
  • J. David Hawkins


Permissive attitudes and norms about marijuana use and perceptions of low harm from use are considered risk factors for adolescent marijuana use. However, the relationship between risk and use may be reciprocal and vary across development and socializing domains. We examined the bidirectional relationships between marijuana-specific risk factors in individual, parent, peer, and community domains and adolescent marijuana use. Longitudinal data came from a sample of 2002 adolescents in 12 communities. Controlling for sociodemographic covariates and communities in which the individuals resided, autoregressive cross-lagged models examined predictive associations between the risk factors and marijuana use. After accounting for concurrent relationships between risk and use and stability in behavior over time, early adolescence and the transition to high school were particularly salient developmental time points. Specifically, higher risk in all four domains in grades 7 and 9 predicted greater use 1 year later. Moreover, youth’s perception of lax community enforcement of laws regarding adolescent use at all time points predicted increases in marijuana use at the subsequent assessment, and perceived low harm from use was a risk factor that prospectively predicted more marijuana use at most of the time points. Finally, greater frequency of marijuana use predicted higher levels of risk factors at the next time point in most socializing domains throughout adolescence. Prevention programs should take into account developmental transitions, especially in early adolescence and during the transition to high school. They also should focus on the reciprocal relationships between use and risk across multiple socializing domains.


Marijuana-specific risk factors Marijuana use Adolescence Dynamic relationship 



The authors gratefully acknowledge CYDS panel participants for their continued contribution to the longitudinal study, the Social Development Research Group Survey Research Division for their hard work maintaining high panel retention, and Ms. Tanya Williams and Ms. Diane Christiansen for their editorial and administrative support. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies meeting held in Dublin, Ireland, in October 2015; and at the Society for Prevention Research annual meeting held in San Francisco, CA in June 2016.


Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under award # R01 DA015183-12 to Dr. Oesterle. These organizations had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Richard F. Catalano is a board member of Channing Bete Company, distributor of Supporting School Success® and Guiding Good Choices®. Although the intervention effects are not studied here, these programs were tested in the study that produced the data set used in this paper.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Activities related to this study were approved by the University of Washington Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained for all participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katarina Guttmannova
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martie L. Skinner
    • 2
  • Sabrina Oesterle
    • 2
  • Helene R. White
    • 3
  • Richard F. Catalano
    • 2
  • J. David Hawkins
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Social Development Research Group, School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Center of Alcohol Studies and Sociology DepartmentRutgers – The State University of New JerseyPiscataway TownshipUSA

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