Skip to main content Accessibility help

Early maturation and substance use across adolescence and young adulthood: A longitudinal study of Finnish twins

  • Jeanne E. Savage (a1), Richard J. Rose (a2), Lea Pulkkinen (a3), Karri Silventoinen (a4), Tellervo Korhonen (a4) (a5), Jaakko Kaprio (a4) (a6), Nathan Gillespie (a1) and Danielle M. Dick (a1)...


Early maturation, indexed by pubertal development (PD), has been associated with earlier initiation and greater frequency of adolescent substance use, but this relationship may be biased by confounding factors and effects that change across development. Using a population-based Finnish twin sample (N = 3,632 individuals), we conducted twin modeling and multilevel structural equation modeling of the relationship between PD and substance use at ages 12–22. Shared environmental factors contributed to early PD and heavier substance use for females. Biological father absence was associated with early PD for boys but not girls, and did not account for the relationship between PD and substance use. The association between early PD and heavier substance use was partially due to between-family confounds, although early PD appeared to qualitatively alter long-term trajectories for some substances (nicotine), but not others (alcohol). Mediation by peer and parental factors did not explain this relationship within families. However, higher peer substance use and lower parental monitoring were themselves associated with heavier substance use, strengthening the existing evidence for these factors as targets for prevention/intervention efforts. Early maturation was not supported as a robust determinant of alcohol use trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood, but may require longer term follow-up. Subtle effects of early PD on nicotine and illicit drug use trajectories throughout adolescence and adulthood merit further investigation.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jeanne E. Savage, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, PO Box 980126, Richmond, VA 23298; E-mail:; or Danielle M. Dick, College of Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298; E-mail:


Hide All

Jeanne E. Savage is supported by Award T32MH020030 from the National Institute of Mental Health and UL1TR000058 from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Nathan Gillespie is supported by Grant R00DA023549 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Danielle M. Dick is supported by Award K01AA018755 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Finnish Twin studies were supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grants AA12502, AA00145, and AA-09203 to R.J.R. and AA015416 to D.M.D.), the Academy of Finland (Grants 100499, 205585, 141054, 118555, 265240, 263278, and 264146 to J.K. and 266592 to K.S.), and the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence Programme (to L.P. and J.K.). The funding sources had no further role in the study design, data analysis, writing of the report, or decision to submit this manuscript for publication. The authors have no conflicts of interest.



Hide All
Alfonso-Loeches, S., & Guerri, C. (2011). Molecular and behavioral aspects of the actions of alcohol on the adult and developing brain. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 48, 1947. doi:10.3109/10408363.2011.580567
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM- IV (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Arim, R. G., Tramonte, L., Shapka, J. D., Dahinten, V. S., & Willms, J. D. (2011). The family antecedents and the subsequent outcomes of early puberty. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 14231435. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9638-6
Belsky, J., Steinberg, L., & Draper, P. (1991). Childhood experience, interpersonal development, and reproductive strategy: An evolutionary theory of socialization. Child Development, 62, 647670.
Biehl, M. C., Natsuaki, M. N., & Ge, X. (2007). The influence of pubertal timing on alcohol use and heavy drinking trajectories. Journal of Youth an Adolescence, 36, 153167.
Biro, F. M., Huang, B., Crawford, P. B., Lucky, A. W., Striegel-Moore, R., Barton, B. A., & Daniels, S. (2006). Pubertal correlates in black and white girls. Journal of Pediatrics, 148, 234240. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2005.10.020
Bogaert, A. F. (2005). Age at puberty and father absence in a national probability sample. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 541546.
Boker, S. M., Neale, M. C., Maes, H. H., Wilde, M. J., Spiegel, M., Brick, T. R., … Fox, J. (2011). OpenMx: An open source extended structural equation modeling framework. Psychometrika, 76, 306317. doi:10.1007/S11336-010-9200-6
Brielmaier, J. M., McDonald, C. G., & Smith, R. F. (2007). Immediate and long-term behavioral effects of a single nicotine injection in adolescent and adult rats. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 29, 7480. doi:10.1016/
Bucholz, K. K., Cadoret, R., Cloninger, C. R., Dinwiddie, S. H., Hesselbrock, V. M., Nurnberger, J. I., … Schuckit, M. A. (1994). A new semi-structured psychiatric interview for use in genetic linkage studies: A report on the reliability of the SSAGA. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 55, 149158.
Carskadon, M. A., & Acebo, C. (1993). A self-administered rating scale for pubertal development. Journal of Adolescent Health, 14, 190195. doi:10.1016/1054-139X(93)90004-9
Crews, F., He, J., & Hodge, C. (2007). Adolescent cortical development: A critical period of vulnerability for addiction. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 86, 189199. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2006.12.001
Deardorff, J., Ekwaru, J. P., Kushi, L. H., Ellis, B. J., Greenspan, L. C., Mirabedi, A., … Hiatt, R. A. (2011). Father absence, body mass index, and pubertal timing in girls: Differential effects by family income and ethnicity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 441447.
Dick, D. M., Pagan, J. L., Viken, R., Purcell, S., Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L., & Rose, R. J. (2007). Changing environmental influences on substance use across development. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10, 315326.
Dick, D. M., Rose, R. J., Viken, R. J., & Kaprio, J. (2000). Pubertal timing and substance use: Associations between and within families. Developmental Psychology, 36, 180189.
Duffy, D. L., & Martin, N. G. (1994). Inferring the direction of causation in cross-sectional twin data: Theoretical and empirical considerations. Genetic Epidemiology, 11, 483502.
Estabrook, R., & Neale, M. (2013). A comparison of factor score estimation methods in the presence of missing data: Reliability and an application to nicotine dependence. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 48, 127. doi:10.1080/00273171.2012.730072
Forbes, E. E., Ryan, N. D., Phillips, M. L., Manuck, S. B., Worthman, C. M., Moyles, D. L., … Dahl, R. E. (2010). Healthy adolescents’ neural response to reward: Associations with puberty, positive affect, and depressive symptoms. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 49, 162172e5. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2009.11.006
Graber, J. A., Lewinsohn, P. M., Seeley, J. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1997). Is psychopathology associated with the timing of pubertal development? Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 17681776. doi:10.1097/00004583-199712000-00026
Graber, J. A., Seeley, J. R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (2004). Is pubertal timing associated with psychopathology in young adulthood? Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 718726. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000120022.14101.11
Harrell, J. S., Bangdiwala, S. I., Deng, S., Webb, J. P., & Bradley, C. (1998). Smoking initiation in youth: The roles of gender, race, socioeconomics, and developmental status. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23, 271279. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(98)00078-0
Hartz, S. M., Short, S., Saccone, N. L., Culverhouse, R., Chen, L. S., Schwantes-An, T., … Bierut, L. J. (2012). Increased genetic vulnerability to smoking at CHRNA5 in early-onset smokers. Archives of General Psychiatry, 69, 854860. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.124
Hesselbrock, M., Easton, C., Bucholz, K. K., Schuckit, M., & Hesselbrock, V. (1999). A validity study of the SSAGA—A comparison with the SCAN. Addiction, 94, 13611370.
Huurre, T., Lintonen, T., Kaprio, J., Pelkonen, M., Marttunen, M., & Aro, H. (2010). Adolescent risk factors for excessive alcohol use at age 32 years: A16-year prospective follow-up study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45, 125134. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0048-y
Iannotti, R. J., & Bush, P. J. (1992). Perceived vs. actual friends’ use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and cocaine: Which has the most influence? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 375389. doi:10.1007/BF01537024
Jones, M. C. (1965). Psychological correlates of somatic development. Child Development, 56, 899911.
Kaltiala-Heino, R., Koivisto, A., Marttunen, M., & Fröjd, S. (2011). Pubertal timing and substance use in middle adolescence: A 2-year follow-up study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 12881301. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9667-1
Kaprio, J. (2006). Twin studies in Finland, 2006. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 9, 772777.
Kaprio, J. (2013). The Finnish twin cohort study: An update. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 157162. doi:10.1017/thg.2012.142
Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L., & Rose, R. J. (2002). Genetic and environmental factors in health-related behaviors: Studies on Finnish twins and twin families. Twin Research, 5, 366371.
Kelly, A. B., Chan, G. C. K., Toumbourou, J. W., O'Flaherty, M., Homel, R., Patton, G. C., & Williams, J. (2012). Very young adolescents and alcohol: Evidence of a unique susceptibility to peer alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors, 37, 414419. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.11.038
Kendler, K. S., Myers, J., Damaj, M. I., & Chen, X. (2013). Early smoking onset and risk for subsequent nicotine dependence: A monozygotic co-twin control study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 408413. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12030321
Kim, K., & Smith, P. K. (1998). Retrospective survey of parental marital relations and child reproductive development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 22, 729751. doi:10.1080/016502598384144
Koo, M., & Rohan, T. (1997). Accuracy of short-term recall of age at menarche. Annals of Human Biology, 24, 6164.
Korhonen, T., Huizink, A. C., Dick, D. M., Pulkkinen, L., Rose, R. J., & Kaprio, J. (2008). Role of individual, peer and family factors in the use of cannabis and other illicit drugs: A longitudinal analysis among Finnish adolescent twins. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 97, 3343. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.03.015
Koskinen, S. M., Ahveninen, J., Kujala, T., Kaprio, J., O'Donnell, B. F., Osipova, D., … Rose, R. J. (2011). A longitudinal twin study of effects of adolescent alcohol abuse on the neurophysiology of attention and orienting. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35, 13391350. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01470.x
Kypri, K., Paschall, M. J., Langley, J., Baxter, J., Cashell-Smith, M., & Bourdeau, B. (2009). Drinking and alcohol-related harm among New Zealand university students: Findings from a national web-based survey. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 33, 307314. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00834.x
Lopez-Quintero, C., Perez de los Cobos, J., Hasin, D. S., Okuda, M., Wang, S., Grant, B. F., & Blanco, C. (2011). Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115, 120130. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.11.004
Lynne-Landsman, S. D., Graber, J. A., & Andrews, J. A. (2010). Do trajectories of household risk in childhood moderate pubertal timing effects on substance initiation in middle school? Developmental Psychology, 46, 853868. doi:10.1037/a0019667
Marklein, E., Negriff, S., & Dorn, L. D. (2009). Pubertal timing, friend smoking, and substance use in adolescent girls. Prevention Science, 10, 141150. doi:10.1007/s11121-008-0120-y
Martin, C. A., Kelly, T. H., Rayens, M. K., Brogli, B. R., Brenzel, A., Smith, W. J., & Omar, H. A. (2002). Sensation seeking, puberty, and nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana use in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 14951502. doi:10.1097/00004583-200212000-00022
Mustanski, B. S., Viken, R. J., Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L., & Rose, R. J. (2004). Genetic and environmental influences on pubertal development: Longitudinal data from Finnish twins at ages 11 and 14. Developmental Psychology, 40, 11881198. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.40.6.1188
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus user's guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Author.
Neale, M. C., & Cardon, L. R. (1992). Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Boston: Kluwer Academic.
Negriff, S., & Trickett, P. K. (2012). Peer substance use as a mediator between early pubertal timing and adolescent substance use: Longitudinal associations and moderating effect of maltreatment. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 126, 95101. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.04.018
Pagan, J. L., Rose, R. J., Viken, R. J., Pulkkinen, L., Kaprio, J., & Dick, D. M. (2006). Genetic and environmental influences on stages of alcohol use across adolescence and into young adulthood. Behavior Genetics, 36, 483497. doi:10.1007/s10519-006-9062-y
Petersen, A. C., Crockett, L., Richards, M., & Boxer, A. (1988). A self-report measure of pubertal status: Reliability, validity, and internal norms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 17, 117133. doi:10.1007/BF01537962
Pitkänen, T., Kokko, K., Lyyra, A.-L., & Pulkkinen, L. (2008). A developmental approach to alcohol drinking behaviour in adulthood: A follow-up study from age 8 to age 42. Addiction, 103, 4868. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02176.x
Preacher, K. J., Zyphur, M. J., & Zhang, Z. (2010). A general multilevel SEM framework for assessing multilevel mediation. Psychological Methods, 15, 209233. doi:10.1037/a0020141
Quinlan, R. J. (2003). Father absence, parental care, and female reproductive development. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 376390. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(03)00039-4
R Core Team (2013). R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Retrieved from
Riala, K., Alaräisänen, A., Taanila, A., Hakko, H., Timonen, M., & Räsänen, P. (2007). Regular daily smoking among 14-year-old adolescents increases the subsequent risk for suicide: The Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68, 775780.
Richards, M. A., & Oinonen, K. A. (2011). Age at menarche is associated with divergent alcohol use patterns in early adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 10651076. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.11.001
Rose, R. J., Dick, D. M., Viken, R. J., Pulkkinen, L., & Kaprio, J. (2001). Drinking or abstaining at age 14? A genetic epidemiological study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 25, 15941604.
Rose, R. J., Dick, D. M., Viken, R. J., Pulkkinen, L., & Kaprio, J. (2004). Genetic and environmental effects on conduct disorder and alcohol dependence symptoms and their covariation at age 14. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 28, 15411548. doi:10.1097/01.ALC.0000141822.36776
Schelleman-Offermans, K., Knibbe, R. A., & Kuntsche, E. (2013). Are the effects of early pubertal timing on the initiation of weekly alcohol use mediated by peers and/or parents? A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 49, 12771285. doi:10.1037/a0029880
Schramm-Sapyta, N. L., Walker, Q. D., Caster, J. M., Levin, E. D., & Kuhn, C. M. (2009). Are adolescents more vulnerable to drug addiction than adults? Evidence from animal models. Psychopharmacology, 206, 121. doi:10.1007/s00213-009-1585-5
Schulte, M. T., Ramo, D., & Brown, S. A. (2009). Gender differences in factors influencing alcohol use and drinking progression among adolescents. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 535547. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.06.003
Simmons, R. G., & Blyth, D. A. (1987). Moving into adolescence: The impact of pubertal change and school context. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Stattin, H., & Magnusson, D. (1990). Paths through life: Vol. 2. Pubertal maturation in female development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658). Rockville, MD: Author.
US Department of Health and Human Services. (2007). The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent and reduce underage drinking. Rockville, MD: Author.
Varvil-Weld, L., Turrisi, R., Scaglione, N., Mallett, K., & Ray, A. (2013). Parents’ and students’ reports of parenting: Which are more reliably associated with college student drinking? Addictive Behaviors, 39, 16991703. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.09.017
Westling, E., Andrews, J. A., Hampson, S. E., & Peterson, M. (2008). Pubertal timing and substance use: The effect of gender, parental monitoring, and deviant peers. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 555563. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.11.002
Widén, E., Silventoinen, K., Sovio, U., Ripatti, S., Cousminer, D. L., Hartikainen, A. L., … Palotie, A. (2012). Pubertal timing and growth influences cardiometabolic risk factors in adult males and females. Diabetes Care, 35, 850856. doi:10.2337/dc11-1365
Windle, M., Spear, L. P, Fuligni, A. J., Angold, A., Brown, J. D., Pine, D., … Dahl, R. E. (2008). Transitions into underage and problem drinking: Developmental processes and mechanisms between 10 and 15 years of age. Pediatrics, 121, S273S289. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2243C
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Savage supplementary material
Tables S1-S5

 Word (35 KB)
35 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed