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For the past 25 years, my primary research focus has been on the development of substance use and disorders. Along with colleagues and students, I have used a developmental science perspective to examine psychosocial influences on substance use precursors, initiation, escalation, and abuse within the first three decades of life. Themes of this work include the following.

  • Children of alcohol and drug-involved parents show early and persistent internalizing and externalizing symptoms that serve as risk factors for later substance use. Elevated symptoms are evident as early as age 2 and remain elevated in comparison to peers well into young adulthood.  This risk is sensitive to the timing of problematic parent drinking for some (i.e., externalizing symptoms) but not all (i.e., alcohol use) outcomes.
    • Hussong, A. , Huang, W., Serrano, D., Curran, P. J., & Chassin, L. (2012). Testing whether and when parent alcoholism uniquely affects various forms of adolescent substance use. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(8), 1265-1276. doi: 10.1007/s10802-012-9662-3. PMCID: PMC3473117.
    • Hussong, A. M., Flora, D. B., Curran, P. J., Chassin, L. A., Zucker, R. A. (2008). Defining risk heterogeneity for internalizing symptoms among children of alcoholic parents. Development and Psychopathology, 20(1), 165-193. doi: 10.1017/S0954579408000084. PMCID: PMC2249558
    • Hussong, A. M., Wirth, R. J., Edwards, M. C., Curran, P. J., Chassin, L. A., & Zucker, R. A. (2007). Externalizing symptoms among children of alcoholic parents:  Entry points for an antisocial pathway to alcoholism.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116(3), 529-542. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.116.3.529. PMCID: PMC2842994
  • The internalizing pathway to substance use and disorder identifies an early emerging risk process that begins in early childhood with an inhibited temperament and develops into internalizing symptoms and poor social functioning in middle childhood. As adolescence approaches, accompanying positive expectations for the tension reducing effects of alcohol (and drugs) as well as exposure to substance using peers (or parents) likely increases risk for substance use onset. Effective tension reduction through substance use may then motivate a cyclical pattern of self-medication, fueling disordered substance engagement.
    • Hussong, A.M., Rothenberg,W.A., Smith, R.K., & Haroon, M. (in press). Implications of heterogeneity in alcohol use disorders for understanding developmental pathways and prevention programming. In H. E. Fitzgerald & L. I. Puttler (Eds.), Developmental perspectives on alcohol and other addictions over the life course. New York: Oxford University Press.
    • Hussong, A. M., Shadur, J. M., Burns, A. R., Stein, G., Jones, D., Solis, J. M., McKee, L. (2018). An early emerging pathway to substance use and disorder. In S. Brown and R. A. Zucker (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Adolescent Substance Abuse. New York: Oxford University Press.
    • Hussong, A. , Jones, D. J., Stein, G. L., Baucom, D. H., & Boeding, S. (2011). An internalizing pathway to alcohol use and disorder. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 25(3), 390-404. doi: 10.1037/a0024519. PMCID: PMC3178003.
  • Although self-medication is not the primary reason why youth and young adults drink and use drugs, some youth are at elevated risk for negative-affect related drinking. In experience sampling studies of youth transitioning to high school and in college, we find that vulnerability factors include poor peer and parent support, poor coping and emotional regulation, lower externalizing symptoms.
    • Shadur, J., & Hussong, A. (2014). Friendship intimacy, close-friend drug use, and self-medication in adolescence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31, 997-1018. doi: 10.1177/0265407513516889. NIHMS583821.
    • Gottfredson, N. , & Hussong, A. M. (2013). Drinking to dampen affect variability: Findings from a college study sample. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(4), 576-583. PMCID: PMC3711348.
    • Hersh, M. A., & Hussong, A. M. (2009). The association between observed parental emotion socialization and adolescent self-medication. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37(4), 493-506. doi: 10.1007/s10802-008-9291-z. PMCID:

Current (and recent) studies, including the following, examine related hypotheses.

  • The High School Transition Study followed a subgroup of vulnerable youth using an experience sampling paradigm and rich observational and survey battery the summer before and after transitioning to high school.
  • The Context Study (PIs: Susan Ennett; Vangie Foshee – UNC School of Public Health) uses peer network methods to follow a sample of 6,000 6-8th graders over a four-year period or up to six waves of assessment. Our current work examines the role of peer network experiences for youth on the development of depression-related substance involvement, particularly during the transition to high school.
    • Ennett, S.T., Faris, R.W., Hussong, A.M., Gottfredson, N.C., & Cole, V.T. (in press). Depressive symptoms as a moderator of friend selection and influence on substance use: Estimates from grades 6 to 12 in six longitudinal school-based social networks. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
    • Hussong, A.M., Ennett, S.T., McNeish, D., Rothenberg*, W.A., Cole, V., Gottfredson, N.C., & Faris, R.W. (in press). Teen social networks and depression-substance use associations: Developmental and demographic variation. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drug Use.
  • The Cross Study uses an integrative data analysis approach to combine date from three landmark prospective studies of children of alcoholic parents and matched controls to test hypotheses about the internalizing pathway.
  • The Real Experiences and Lives of University students (REAL-U) examines contextual factors related to college students substance involvement, including the role of text-messaged social interactions in alcohol and drug use and the use of culturally-specific messages about alcohol use in college among African American families.
    • Jensen, M., Hussong, A.M., & Baik, J. (in press). Text messaging and social network site use to facilitate alcohol involvement: Comparison of US and Korean college students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21,
  • The Millennium Friendship Study (MFS) surveys 900 college student friendship pairs to address methodological questions about assessing substance use as well as the peer context of college students’ substance use.
  • The Family Stories Pilot intervention brings virtual reality to the context of parent training for families in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.