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Advancing the Study of Adolescent Substance Use Through the Use of Integrative Data Analysis

Patrick J Curran, Veronica Cole, Michael Giordano, A R Georgeson, Andrea M Hussong, Daniel J Bauer
Evaluation & the Health Professions 2018, 41 (2): 216-245
A wealth of information is currently known about the epidemiology, etiology, and evaluation of drug and alcohol use across the life span. Despite this corpus of knowledge, much has yet to be learned. Many factors conspire to slow the pace of future advances in the field of substance use including the need for long-term longitudinal studies of often hard-to-reach subjects who are reporting rare and episodic behaviors. One promising option that might help move the field forward is integrative data analysis (IDA). IDA is a principled set of methodologies and statistical techniques that allow for the fitting of statistical models to data that have been pooled across multiple, independent samples. IDA offers a myriad of potential advantages including increased power, greater coverage of rare behaviors, more rigorous psychometric assessment of theoretical constructs, accelerated developmental time period under study, and enhanced reproducibility. However, IDA is not without limitations and may not be useful in a given application for a variety of reasons. The goal of this article is to describe the advantages and limitations of IDA in the study of individual development over time, particularly as it relates to trajectories of substance use. An empirical example of the measurement of polysubstance use is presented and this article concludes with recommendations for practice.


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