This study examined the developmental associations between substance use and violence.
We examined the trends in each behavior throughout adolescence, how the behaviors covaried
over time, and the symmetry of associations taking into account frequency and severity of each
behavior. We also examined whether changes in one behavior affected changes in the other
behavior over time. Six years of annual data were analyzed for 506 boys who were in the seventh
grade at the first assessment. Concurrent associations between frequency of substance use and
violence were relatively strong throughout adolescence and were somewhat stronger for
marijuana than alcohol, especially in early adolescence. Type or severity of violence was not
related to concurrent alcohol or marijuana frequency, but severity of drug use was related to
concurrent violence frequency. Depending, to some degree, on the age of the subjects, the
longitudinal relationships between substance use and violence were reciprocal during
adolescence and slightly stronger for alcohol and violence than for marijuana and violence.
Further, increases in alcohol use were related to increases in violence; however, when early
alcohol use was controlled, increases in marijuana use were not related to increases in violence.
Only in early adolescence was the longitudinal relationship between marijuana use and later
violence especially strong. The strength of the longitudinal associations between violence and
substance use did not change when common risk factors for violence and substance use were
controlled. Overall, the data lend more support for a reciprocal than for a unidirectional
association between substance use and violence. Prevention efforts should be directed at
aggressive males who are multiple-substance users in early adolescence.