Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Albert D. Farrell

Second Advisor

Dr. Danielle Dick

Third Advisor

Dr. Shelby McDonald


A substantial portion of early adolescents initiate alcohol use. This represents a significant public health concern due to its association with a variety of adverse consequences. Although person-centered analytic approaches such as latent class analysis have been used to describe heterogeneity in adolescents’ alcohol use, most prior studies have focused on high school or older samples. This may obscure patterns of alcohol use that emerge during early adolescence. The current study identified and described subgroups of adolescents based on their alcohol use in a racially diverse sample of rural middle school students. Because research and theory indicate that exposure to stressors relates to adolescent alcohol use, this study also examined the extent to which community violence exposure related to membership in alcohol use subgroups. Latent class analysis identified five subgroups of adolescents who differed based on their lifetime use and past month use of alcohol: Abstainers (56.9%), Initiators of wine and beer (12.9%), Moderately frequent wine and beer users (11.7%), Moderately frequent wine, beer, and liquor users who got drunk (10.9%), and Highly frequent wine, beer, and liquor users who got drunk (7.7%). Probability of class membership varied based on participant sex, grade, and racial-ethnic background. Results of multinomial logistic regression analyses indicated that adolescents with more frequent exposure to community violence and unfair life stressors had an increased risk of being in subgroups characterized by more severe alcohol use. Witnessing violence and physical victimization were each associated with alcohol use class membership after controlling for nonviolent stressors and peer pressure for substance use. Future research should continue to examine heterogeneity in adolescents’ alcohol use and its relation with risk and protective factors using the latent class analysis framework. Longitudinal research is needed to examine exposure to stressors and changing patterns of alcohol use throughout early adolescence and mechanisms that explain these relations to inform prevention efforts.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission