School Bonding and Alcohol Use in Italian Early Adolescents: What Comes First?

Previous research has identified school bonding as protective against substance use during adolescence. However, there is still a question as to whether school involvement predicts changes in substance use or if substance use actually predicts changes in level of school bonding. This study investigated the relationship between school bonding and alcohol use, which is commonly recognized as gateway drug, during early adolescence. A three-wave longitudinal analysis was conducted on a sample composed of 161 Italian adolescents (51% boys, 49% girls, mean age = 11.14 years, standard deviation =.40). Associations were analyzed by using crossed-lagged autoregressive models in MPlus. Findings revealed that greater school involvement decreased alcohol consumption from Grade 6 to Grade 7. However, greater alcohol use decreased school involvement from Grade 7 to Grade 8. Findings of this study underlined the importance of choosing the right time for prevention.