Life Course Research Laboratory

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Researchers in this laboratory collect and analyze longitudinal data to delineate the development, etiology, and consequences of substance use over the life course. Longitudinal data sets span early childhood through adulthood and include both community and high-risk samples. In addition to substance use, research focuses on other problem behaviors, such as delinquency and violence, and how they are comorbid with substance use behaviors. Findings are used to inform the development of prevention programs.

Research Aim(s): 
  • Explication of a taxonomy of developmental trajectories of alcohol and drug use over the life course
  • Identification of developmental risk and protective factors for the onset and maintenance of use and problem use
  • Identification of short- and long-term consequences of use
  • Identification of antecedents to maturing out of substance use
  • Examination of the comorbidity of substance use with other problem behaviors, including criminal offending, street and intimate partner violence, child maltreatment, mental health problems, and risky sexual behavior
  • Examination of  ethnic/racial and gender differences in patterns, predictors, and consequences of substance use
  • Translation of etiological research into developing age-appropriate and culturally-appropriate preventive interventions.
  • Development of measures of problem use (e.g., the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index; RAPI)
Active Research Projects: 

The Rutgers Health and Human Development Project (HHDP), which began in 1979, is a prospective, longitudinal study of the emergence and unfolding of alcohol and other drug use behaviors in interaction with the individual's physical, psychological and social development from adolescence into adulthood. The design of the HHDP study involves three partially overlapping, longitudinal sequences each starting at a different age (12, 15, and 18) and spanning a combined age range from 12 to 31. This study has been funded by NIAAA, NIDA, NIJ, ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the MacManus Foundation.

The Pittsburgh Youth Study (PYS) uses data from 1009 young men who were initially recruited from the Pittsburgh public schools in 1986 when they were either in the first or seventh grade. These young men (who were oversampled for risk for antisocial behavior) were interviewed at least every year until ages 20-25 and again in young adulthood at ages 28-35. Parents were interviewed until the youths were age 18 and teachers completed questionnaires through middle high school. Official criminal records have also been searched. With these data, we are studying racial differences in predictors and consequences of substance use and criminal offending over the life course. This study has been funded by OJJDP, NIMH, NIDA, NIAAA, CDC, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Currently this project is funded by NIDA, DA034608, 04/01/2013–03/31/2016.

Recent Press and Presentations:

White, H.R., Bechtold, J. and Pardini, D. Long-term Effects of Marijuana Use in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood on Adult Functioning: A Developmental Perspective. Poster presented at the Society for Prevention Research annual meeting, May 2015, Washington, DC.

Pardini, D., White, H.R., and Bechtold. Childhood Precursors of Marijuana Use Trajectories From Adolescence to Young Adulthood Among Black and White Males. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology meeting, November 2014, San Francisco, CA.

White, H. R., Pardini, D., and Bechtold, J. Trajectories of Marijuana Use From Adolescence Through Emerging Adulthood as Predictors of Criminal Behavior Among Black and White Young Adult Men. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology meeting, November 2014, San Francisco, CA.

White, H.R., Simpson, T., and Buckman, J. The Role of Alcohol and Drugs in Persistence of Serious Violent Offending from Young Adulthood to Early Mid-Adulthood. Paper presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism annual meeting, June 2014, Bellevue, WA.

White, H.R., Simpson, T. Finlay, A., and Pardini, D. Racial Differences in the Association Between Trajectories of Regular Marijuana Use and Types of Offending. Poster presented at the American Society of Criminology annual meeting, November 2013, Atlanta, GA.

White, H.R., Simpson, T., Pardini, D., and Finlay, A. Racial Differences in the Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use on Health Outcomes. Paper presented at the Society for Prevention Research annual meeting, May 2013, Washington, DC.

Sitney, M.H., Anderson, K.G., and White, H.R. A Longitudinal Study of Marijuana Motives Across Emerging Adulthood. Poster presented at the College of Drug Dependence annual meeting, June 2013, San Diego, CA.

Anderson, K. and White, H.R. Personality, Drinking Motivations and Consumption: Predictors Across Emerging Adulthood. Paper presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, June 2012, San Francisco, CA.

White, H.R. and Ray, A.E. Differential Evaluations of Alcohol-related Consequences among Emerging Adults. Poster presented at the Society for Prevention Research annual meeting, May 2012, Washington, DC.

Training Offered: 

Each year graduate students are hired to work on some projects within the lab. Paid and unpaid undergraduate interns are also included on some projects.

Core Faculty:

Helene R. White, Director
Robert Pandina
Eun-Young Mun

Affiliated Faculty: Marsha Bates
Jennifer Buckman
Dustin Pardini (Arizona State University)
Rolf Loeber (University of Pittsburgh)
Postdoctoral Associates: Jordan Bechtold (University of Pittsburgh)
Other information: 

Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI)
Created by Helene R. White, Ph.D. and Erich Labouvie, Ph.D., the RAPI is a 23-item self-administered screening tool for assessing adolescent problem drinking. It was developed in order to create a conceptually sound, unidimensional, relatively brief, and easily administered instrument to assess problem drinking in adolescence.