Meeyoung Oh Min, PhD, Research Associate Professor, is the Principal Investigator for an $842,460 research grant (R01-DA042747-01A1) awarded in August, 2017, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) titled “Gender and Developmental Trajectories to Adolescent Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behavior.”

This study will examine gender differences and similarities in the development trajectories of early behavioral problems and subsequent outcomes of substance use (SU) and sexual risk behaviors (SRBs) in adolescents with prenatal cocaine/poly drug exposure (PCE) vs. a matched group without PCE.

 

Childhood behavioral problems (e.g., aggression, inattention) are well-established precursors to SU and SRBs, and children with PCE are more prone to adolescent substance use and sexual risk behaviors, even compared to other high-risk populations. Although PCE has been associated with more behavioral problems, little is known about how PCE contributes to childhood developmental trajectories of behavioral problems, which may persist, desist, or escalate over time.  Further, developmental trajectories of behavioral problems, SU, and SRBs may differ by gender, yet few studies have compared gender-specific childhood developmental trajectories that lead to SU and/or SRBs.

This study will harmonize data from two large, existing community-based birth cohorts (N=1,803): The Cleveland Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Study and the Maternal Lifestyle Study.  The aims of the original studies examined long-term effects of in-utero exposure to cocaine on child development.  In this study, Dr. Min’s research team will examine heterogeneity in developmental trajectories, with specific foci on testing whether PCE and gender interactively contribute to specific trajectories along with the role(s) of life adversities (i.e., violence exposure, childhood maltreatment, sexual victimization), also key etiological factors in SU disorders and SRBs.

Findings from the study will contribute to advanced early identification of those in greatest need of prevention services and specification of modifiable targets that may be gender-specific, promoting the ongoing development of gender-specific prevention programs, a promising way to address NIDA’s strategic priorities in prevention of SU disorders.  Further, given that children with PCE tend to be of minority and low socioeconomic status, this study will contribute to reducing health disparities in behavioral health interventions observed in this population, one of the four overarching goals of Healthy People 2020.

The project began on September 1, 2017, and will go through July 31, 2020.

Case Western Reserve researchers supported by the grant are: Sonia Minnes, PhD, Associate Professor at the Mandel School; Lynn Singer, PhD, Deputy Provost at Case Western Reserve and Professor of population and quantitative health sciences, pediatrics, psychiatry and psychology at the School of Medicine; and Jeffrey Albert, PhD, Professor at the School of Medicine.

Partners on the grant: Dr. Ty Ridenour, Senior Research Scientist, Research Triangle Institute (RTI) located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Dr. Linda LaGasse, Director of Research, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, located in Providence, Rhode Island.

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