Progressive elaboration and cross-validation of a latent class typology of adolescent alcohol involvement in a national sample

John E. Donovan, Tammy Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Most studies of adolescent drinking focus on single alcohol use behaviors (e.g., high-volume drinking, drunkenness) and ignore the patterning of adolescents’ involvement across multiple alcohol behaviors. The present latent class analyses (LCAs) examined a procedure for empirically determining multiple cut points on the alcohol use behaviors in order to establish a typology of adolescent alcohol involvement. Method: LCA was carried out on six alcohol use behavior indicators collected from 6,504 7th through 12th graders who participated in Wave I of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (AddHealth). To move beyond dichotomous indicators, a “progressive elaboration” strategy was used, starting with six dichotomous indicators and then evaluating a series of models testing additional cut points on the ordinal indicators at progressively higher points for one indicator at a time. Analyses were performed on one random half-sample, and confirmatory LCAs were performed on the second random half-sample and in the Wave II data. Results: The final model consisted of four latent classes (never or non–current drinkers, low-intake drinkers, non–problem drinkers, and problem drinkers). Confirmatory LCAs in the second random half-sample from Wave I and in Wave II support this four-class solution. The means on the four latent classes were also generally ordered on an array of measures reflecting psychosocial risk for problem behavior. Conclusions: These analyses suggest that there may be four different classes or types of alcohol involvement among adolescents, and, more importantly, they illustrate the utility of the progressive elaboration strategy for moving beyond dichotomous indicators in latent class models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-429
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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