Structured questionnaires were administered to investigate the relationship between early pubertal onset, substance abuse, sensation seeking, and self-esteem. The current study presents data from 1,002 subjects, who were followed from the 6th to the 10th grades and again at the age of 20. In females, early pubertal onset was associated with greater cigarette use and lower self-esteem. Further the interaction of early pubertal onset and low self-esteem was predictive for cigarette use in females, as was early pubertal onset and high sensation seeking. Late pubertal onset was associated with decreased alcohol use and lower sensation seeking in males, with the opposite trends for early pubertal onset. These interrelationships must be considered when attempting to understand and identify early adolescent initiation of substance abuse.

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This article was made available online December 27, 2011.

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