The present study predicts heavy alcohol use across the high school years (aged 14 through 18) from cognitions regarding the use of alcohol assessed in middle school. Using Latent Growth Modeling, we examined a structural model using data from 1011 participants in the Oregon Youth Substance Use Project. In this model, social images and descriptive norms regarding alcohol use in grade 7 were related to willingness and intention to drink alcohol in grade 8 and these variables were subsequently related to the intercept and slope of extent of heavy drinking across the high school years (grades 9 through 12). Across the sample, both descriptive norms and social images influenced the intercept of heavy drinking (in the 9th grade) through willingness to drink alcohol. Multiple sample analyses showed that social images also were directly related to the intercept of heavy drinking, for girls only. Results suggest that cognitions regarding alcohol use in middle school predict subsequent heavy drinking in high school. These findings emphasize the need for prevention programs targeting changing students' social images and encouraging a more accurate perception of peers' use when students are in middle school. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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