The Crossover Effect: The Influence of Social Roles in an African American Cohort

  • Margaret E. EnsmingerEmail author
  • Kate E. Fothergill
  • Elaine E. Doherty
  • Kerry M. Green
  • Judy A. Robertson
  • Hee-Soon Juon


Despite some stereotypes that may exist, substance use among African American adolescents is generally comparable to or somewhat less than use among White populations. However, evidence of a pattern shift emerges as they age into adulthood, when African Americans, compared to Whites, are more likely to initiate drug use and develop problem use, and are less likely to terminate their drug use (French et al. 2002). In this chapter, we evaluate the crossover effect in a cohort of African Americans studied from ages six to 42 from the Woodlawn Study (N=1242). Using data from the Woodlawn cohort and national surveys administered at times corresponding to the three Woodlawn assessments we show evidence of cross-over: lower use of drugs for African Americans during adolescence; increasing use (relative to Whites) over adulthood; and higher reported abuse in adulthood. We examined whether one reason for higher drug use among the Woodlawn cohort relates to their lower likelihood of participating in the expected central social roles of mid life, especially, marriage and employment. Woodlawn men and women had even lower participation in these roles than national African Americans. We found that patterns of cocaine use over the life course as shown in trajectory analyses were related to social role involvement in adolescence, young adulthood, and mid adulthood. Marriage and employment may have steered cohort members away from their cocaine use, or if they were not cocaine users helped to keep them from becoming cocaine users. It is consistent with the possibility that the adoption of these adult social roles is an important turning point with regard to drug use.


Social Role Young Adulthood Deviant Behavior African American Adolescent Cocaine User 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret E. Ensminger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kate E. Fothergill
    • 1
  • Elaine E. Doherty
    • 2
  • Kerry M. Green
    • 3
  • Judy A. Robertson
    • 1
  • Hee-Soon Juon
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Health, Behavior and Society, The Bloomberg School of Public HealthThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of Missouri – St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public HealthUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.Sidney Kimmel Medical CollegeThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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