High School Dropouts in Emerging Adulthood: Substance Use, Mental Health Problems, and Crime

Brandy R. Maynard, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the distribution of substance use, mental health, and criminal behavior among dropouts derived from a nationally representative sample of 18–25 year old (N = 19,312) emerging adults in the United States. Using public-use data from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this study employed multiple logistic regression with adjustments for complex survey sampling and compared high school dropouts with graduates with respect to substance use, mental health, and criminal behavior. After controlling for the effects of age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, receipt of government assistance, employment status, and metropolitan population density, dropouts were more likely to meet criteria for nicotine dependence and report daily cigarette use, and more likely to report having attempted suicide in the previous year, been arrested for larceny, assault, drug possession or drug sales relative to their high school graduate counterparts. The findings of this study provide important insights and an initial epidemiologic portrait of mental health, substance use, and criminal behaviors of dropouts during emerging adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Apr

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the support from the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, the Greater Texas Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences grants (R324A100022 & R324B080008) and from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P50 HD052117). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the supporting entities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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