Are behavior patterns in kindergarten-aged children predictive of substance abuse in their teen years? According to several research studies that have followed groups of children into adolescence and beyond, the answer is yes.

According to several National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded studies, there are some important personality traits that may indicate that a young child is at risk for later substance use. For both boys and girls, those with higher scores on IQ tests and readiness for school tests were more likely to use alcohol and marijuana ten years later.

Among boys, those who were aggressive (fighting with others or breaking rules) were more likely to use substances in adolescence. And those who were both aggressive and shy (sitting alone, having few friends, not likely to speak up in class) were even more likely to use substances during the teen years. This research suggests that both shyness and aggression are indications of poor social adaptation, a problem that may lead to use and abuse of substances in later years.

Shyness and aggression in little girls, however, is not as important of a predictor of substance use in adolescence. Girls with strong family bonds and whose mothers are psychologically healthy fare best when it comes to substance abuse during later teen years.

Research has also shown that in middle adolescence, an attitude of unconventionality, defined as rebelliousness, defiance and avoidance of personal responsibility-is a good indicator of later substance use, especially if close peers use substances or if parents have problems with drinking or drugs.