Developmental cascade models of a parenting-focused program for divorced families on mental health problems and substance use in emerging adulthood

Sharlene A. Wolchik, Jenn Yun Tein, Irwin N. Sandler, Han Joe Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A developmental cascade model from functioning in adolescence to emerging adulthood was tested using data from a 15-year longitudinal follow-up of 240 emerging adults whose families participated in a randomized, experimental trial of a preventive program for divorced families. Families participated in the program or literature control condition when the offspring were ages 9-12. Short-term follow-ups were conducted 3 months and 6 months following completion of the program when the offspring were in late childhood/early adolescence. Long-term follow-ups were conducted 6 years and 15 years after program completion when the offspring were in middle to late adolescence and emerging adulthood, respectively. It was hypothesized that the impact of the program on mental health and substance use outcomes in emerging adulthood would be explained by developmental cascade effects of program effects in adolescence. The results provided support for a cascade effects model. Specifically, academic competence in adolescence had cross-domain effects on internalizing problems and externalizing problems in emerging adulthood. In addition, adaptive coping in adolescence was significantly, negatively related to binge drinking. It was unexpected that internalizing symptoms in adolescence were significantly negatively related to marijuana use and alcohol use. Gender differences occurred in the links between mental health problems and substance use in adolescence and mental health problems and substance use in emerging adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-888
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Institute of Mental Health Grants 5R01MH071707, 5P30MH068685, and 5P30MH039246 (Clinicaltrials. gov identifier NCT01407120) and by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grant 2R01DA09757. The authors thank Philip G. Poirier and Linda Sandler for their support throughout this project; the mothers and emerging adults for their participation; Michele Porter, Monique Nuno, Toni Genalo, and Michele McConnaughay for their assistance with data collection and management; the interviewers for their commitment to this project; and Janna LeRoy and Britt Lewis for their technical assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2016.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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