It should certainly interest many of those families considering young adult recovery programs to read the findings of recent research by Dr. Kerstin Pahl and colleagues at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. The study found self-control among 14 year old urban African Americans and Puerto Ricans to strongly predict low levels of both marijuana use and depressive mood up to age 29.
The findings suggest that when the self-control of ethnic and racial minority children and early adolescents is bolstered, they can be better shielded from both drug abuse and depression into adolescence and young adulthood. The study built on past research suggesting that low self-control in white populations heightened the risks for substance use and depressive mood, when the two are considered in isolation.
The new research goes further in not only replicating those results in an ethnic/racial minority population, but also showing the impact of self-control on the likelihood of a young person developing both marijuana use and depression. When the Harlem Longitudinal Development Study began in 1990, the self-control of students across 11 schools in the East Harlem area of New York was assessed.
Those students were asked to agree or disagree that a set of eight statements, which characterized a lack of self-control, applied to themselves, examples including “You’ll do anything on a dare”, “You feel like losing your temper at people” and “When rules get in the way, you ignore them”. The students were also quizzed by the researchers on the amount of marijuana they used and whether they had an unhappy, sad or depressed and hopeless attitude to the future.
Re-interviews of the participants about their drug use and mood took place every five years until they reached 29 years of age, with a total of 838 participants completing at least three of the four interviews. About one quarter of respondents consistently stated that they seldom or never used marijuana, in addition to experiencing minimal or no depressive mood. However, the 15 years of study also saw almost 1 in 7 follow a trajectory of increasing marijuana use as well as high depressive mood levels.
For the other 60 per cent of participants, mixed trajectories were reported of minimal or increasing marijuana use with low or intermediate depressive mood. The self-control level of the respondents in adolescence strongly predicted the trajectory group to which they belonged, with those indicating high levels of self-control at 14 having a significantly greater likelihood of reporting slight or no marijuana use, alongside low depressive mood levels.
However, with depressive mood also becoming less prevalent among the participants up to the age of 29, Dr. Pahl also emphasized the positive effect of maturity and the malleable nature of self-control, commenting: “The good news is that self-control can be improved over time, and that early interventions can make a difference.” That is certainly a lesson to be taken in by those comparing young adult recovery programs like Red Oak Recovery.