My PhD thesis examined the effect of peer influence on the development of adolescent alcohol use. Peer influence is one of the most salient and consistent predictors for drinking behaviour among young people. It is important to understand the relative contribution of the processes of peer influence (whereby adolescents transition to alcohol use in the presence of alcohol-using peers) and peer selection (whereby those using alcohol initially in the absence of alcohol-using friends then subsequently seek out drinking peers) so that appropriate prevention strategies can be applied at different stages in adolescence. Using cross-national, prospective data from state-representative samples of students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA from the International Youth DevelopmentStudy, I used Latent Transition Analysis to identify a range of transition groups with adolescents moving in and out of their latent peer classes over time and explored predictors associated with these transitions. The findings provide the firmest estimates to date of the prevalence of peer influenced alcohol use transitions and demonstrate age and country variations.
News and Events
Merel and Nadia, two child psychology students from the Netherlands spent eight weeks doing a student placement within two of our research projects. They were at the Centre for Adolescent Health to write their bachelor’s thesis.
They told us “It was a great experience being here. It was a pleasure to see how the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital research teams operate. All the co-workers are interested in each other’s project. It was a wonderful experience being here and to meet all the nice staff! We learned a lot about what research is and it was great to see how the staff worked together and were very helpful to each other. We loved our internship at the Centre for Adolescent Health and to see the brand new hospital with all the child friendly facilities. It is amazing that everything is just there in one hospital. We had a great time!”
- The PhD thesis examined the effect of peer influence on the development of adolescent alcohol use. Peer influence is one of the most salient and consistent predictors for drinking behaviour among young people.
- It is important to understand the relative contribution of the processes of peer influence (whereby adolescents transition to alcohol use in the presence of alcohol-using peers) and peer selection (whereby those using alcohol initially in the absence of alcohol-using friends then subsequently seek out drinking peers) so that appropriate prevention strategies can be applied at different stages in adolescence.
- Using cross-national, prospective data from state-representative samples of students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA from the International Youth Development Study, Latent Transition Analysis was used to identify a range of transition groups with adolescents moving in and out of their latent peer classes over time and explored predictors associated with these transitions.
- The findings provide the firmest estimates to date of the prevalence of peer influenced alcohol use transitions and demonstrate age and country variations.
The CATS study is a new and unique longitudinal study of children in metropolitan Melbourne as they approach adolescence. The study began in 2012 and is following over 1200 children from grade 3 (8-9 years of age). It will cover the experiences of children and their families, their changing social context as they move into secondary school, and the biological changes of puberty. Findings from this study will be used to determine which children are most at risk as they pass through puberty and the middle years of school, and to see if certain modifiable factors may be a target for preventative interventions.
Find out more information on our website: http://www.mcri.edu.au/cats
Check out our new video to learn more about CATS! http://www.mcri.edu.au/truthaboutcats/]
You can also keep up to date through our facebook page: www.facebook.com/cats.study.9
This paper reports on research from the Longitudinal Study of Australian children, in which parents of children were interviewed over time, and asked questions on puberty, behaviour, emotional, social and school functioning.
Lead researcher, Dr Fiona Mensah, says the study provides new evidence of pre-existing and persistent early childhood differences in socio-emotional well being amongst children who experience early puberty.
“There is a heightened risk for behaviour and emotional problems during puberty; and children who reach puberty earlier than their peers have more of these difficulties in adolescence.”
Professor George Patton says the study supports a ‘life course’ hypothesis.
“Understanding what lies behind early puberty may also tell us much about the origins of emotional and behavioural problems of children and adolescents.”
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
George Patton was interviewed by the ABC. To listen to the interview click here.
Fiona and George write Conversation piece
There has been a good deal of interest in a question about whether very early adolescent heavy cannabis use may cause ongoing problems even when someone stops cannabis use. The early teens are a time of rapid brain development involving those parts involved in emotional control. Studies in rats have suggested large doses of cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) may alter longer terms patterns of anxiety. Other studies in humans have raised a question about early cannabis users have reduced intelligence later in adulthood. We found that in our study of two thousand young Victorians a two-fold higher rate of anxiety problems in the later twenties even where an individual was no longer using cannabis. We could not account for it by other aspects of an individual’s lifestyle or their earlier history of mental health problems. It is consistent with a view that heavy (at least weekly) early teen cannabis use does increase the risks for later anxiety problems.
Degenhardt L, Coffey C, Romaniuk H, Swift W, Carlin JB, Hall WD, Patton GC. The persistence of the association between adolescent cannabis use and common mental disorders into young adulthood. Addiction. 2013; 108(1): 124-33.
The Victorian Honour Roll of Women recognises and celebrates women who have made an extraordinary contribution to Victoria. Women have been inducted into the Honour Roll for their contributions in a diverse range of fields including health, science, law, social justice, sport, arts, media and education, as well as their involvement in ethnic and Indigenous communities. The vision, talent and commitment of the women on the Honour Roll has enriched Victoria, and their stories of success have been a source of inspiration to all Victorians.
Professor Sawyer was nominated for her contribution to Victorian young people through her professional efforts in the field of Adolescent Health and Medicine.
On receiving the award, Professor Sawyer reported that she felt incredibly humbled by the honour. When asked what motivates her work, she said, ‘I’ve always gravitated to challenging problems. Working with complex young people in a complex service system is not easy, but it does make the hard won rewards of individual change or system reform feel especially sweet. In the meantime, I remain inspired by working with young people, and working with a great team in a great place.’
To read more about it click here
The Chronic Illness Peer Support (ChIPS) Program held its annual camp from 16th – 18th January at the Mt Evelyn Recreation Camp. Always a highlight on the ChIPS calendar, this year 42 young people attended along with ChIPS staff, volunteers and a healthcare team – our biggest attendance yet! Over the three days a mixture of group and team activities unfolded. T-ball is fast becoming a tradition at camp and teams competed for points in activities such as archery, giant swing and skits.
The theme for this year’s camp was Harry Potter and a definite highlight was the ‘Halloween/ Sci-Fi’ costume party on the second night. Despite the heat we all managed to have a fabulous time!
The Camp Committee (comprised of ChIPS members, an adult mentor and assisted by ChIPS staff) planned the 2012 camp and did a great job of creating and delivering a fantastic event. The ChIPS members who attended were a diverse group of young people of differing ages and health conditions. A big thanks to everyone for contributing to such a memorable camp, one full of support, respect and fun!
Professor Susan Sawyer was one of four professors from The University of Melbourne who participated in the recent 2012 Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout that helped raise over a 5 million dollars for homeless Australians. Her commitment to the event stemmed from her knowledge of the greater risks experienced by this complex group of people through the Centre’s ‘Young People’s Health Service’. Based at ‘Frontyard’ in the CBD, the Young People’s Health Service provides healthcare to homeless and socially marginalised young people aged from 12-25 years.
The four professors (Susan Sawyer, Glenn Bowes, Mark Cook and Peter Ebeling) joined 157 other Victorians who spent the night sleeping rough at Etihad Stadium. Over $600,000 was raised in Victoria, with the four professors contributing over $15,000 between them.
After a night on 2 sheets of cardboard, she told us that she wasn’t looking quite so chirpy at 5 am….
Professor Sawyer wishes to thank everyone who sponsored her in this event.
Hear Professor Susan Sawyer speak at the launch of The Lancet Series on Adolescent Health held in New York on April 24 2012. This link to The Lancet website also has The Series papers available for download.
Professor Susan Sawyer and Professor George Patton talk to Radio National’s Norman Swan about a Series of major papers on adolescent health just published in The Lancet.
ABC Radio AM program talks to professors Susan Sawyer and George Patton about risk factors for adolescents.
Read an article from The Economist online – Comparing death rates for young people in the rich world - from data collected by Professor George Patton.
Read UNICEF report on adolescents:
Millions of adolescents falling behind, especially in Africa – UNICEF report
Access the presentations and programs of the academic symposium, “Adolescents: From the Margins to the Mainstream of Global Health.” more than 100 participants representing more than 50 organizations globally attended the sessions hosted jointly by The Lancet, the Centre for Adolescent Health, Melbourne, Australia and the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.