Prediction of Substance Use by Dutch Adults from CBCL Scores

Using a randomly selected sample of Dutch children, Robert Ferdinand, Marije Blum, and Frank Verhulst (2001) tested the ability of CBCL scores to predict self-reports of high levels of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use obtained on the Young Adult Self-Report (YASR) at ages 18 to 22. High levels of substance use were defined as amounts that exceeded the 90th percentile for all the adult subjects (>14 drinks per week; >19 cigarettes per day; any drug use in 6 months). 

After controlling for scores on all other syndromes, age, and gender, the following CBCL syndrome scores predicted substance use above the 90thpercentile:  Alcohol use was predicted by Thought Problems at ages 12-16; tobacco use was predicted by Thought Problems at ages 10-14 and by Delinquent Behavior at ages 14-18; and drug use was predicted by Delinquent Behavior at ages 10-14. The authors concluded that “Prevention programs to reduce adolescent and young adult substance use often rely on strategies aimed at refusal skill efficacy . . . and behavioral problems. 

Our findings, however, indicate that it may also be important to aim at those (pre-)adolescents who display odd behaviors, poor reality testing, and obsessive/compulsive behaviors . . . they might need a—a probably more individual—approach aimed at improvement of reality testing, and reduction of obsessive/compulsive and odd behaviors” (p. 867).

Reference: Ferdinand, R. F., Blum, M., & Verhulst, F. C. (2001). Psychopathology in adolescence predicts substance use in young adulthood. Addiction, 96, 861-870.