Etiology of early age onset substance use disorder: A maturational perspective

Ralph Tarter, Michael Vanyukov, Peter Giancola, Michael Dawes, Timothy Blackson, Ada Mezzich, Duncan B. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

253 Scopus citations


The etiology of early age onset substance use disorder (SUD), an Axis I psychiatric illness, is examined from the perspective of the multifactorial model of complex disorders. Beginning at conception, genetic and environment interactions produce a sequence of biobehavioral phenotypes during development which bias the ontogenetic pathway toward SUD. One pathway to SUD is theorized to emanate from a deviation in somatic and neurological maturation, which, in the context of adverse environments, predisposes to affective and behavioral dysregulation as the cardinal SUD liability-contributing phenotype. Dysregulation progresses via epigenesis from difficult temperament in infancy to conduct problems in childhood to substance use by early adolescence and to severe SUD by young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-683
Number of pages27
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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