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Clark receives $828,911 NIH grant for minority substance use study

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded Assistant Professor Trenette Clark a five-year Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01) in the amount of $828,911 for her research project, “Substance Use Trajectories and Health Outcomes for Monoracial and Biracial Blacks.”

The following is information from Clark’s grant proposal, describing the need for this study:

Increasingly, substance use researchers are trying to explain a paradoxical trend among Blacks in which lower rates of substance use in adolescence do not predict lower rates of substance use in adulthood. Although Black adolescents use substances at substantially lower rates than their White peers, by young adulthood the rates of substance use among Blacks catch up to or surpass the rates of Whites. This catch-up effect contributes to high rates of adverse social and health outcomes among Blacks.


Understanding the catch-up effect is hindered by the normative practice of treating Blacks as a homogeneous group. Notably, as used for the U.S. Census, “Black” includes African Americans, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, and biracial Blacks—but without regard for different sociocultural experiences that might affect substance use. Thus, such aggregation likely obscures important between-group differences. Clark’s preliminary research suggests a single substance use trajectory is wholly inadequate for either describing or predicting the pathways to substance use found among monoracial and various biracial Black subgroups.


Excluding Clark’s  preliminary findings, no research has examined predictors of substance use trajectories among de-aggregated samples of biracial Black youth. This study seeks to address these knowledge gaps. It will reveal which subgroups are most vulnerable to the catch-up effect and which factors are critical determinants of substance use among monoracial and biracial Black subgroups during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.


The project seeks to describe the developmental trajectories of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among the monoracial groups (Black, Hispanic, and White) and two major biracial Black subgroups (Black-Hispanic, Black-White) during ages 11 to 34 years, which is a high-risk period for onset of substance use. Further, the study will assess the relationships among socioeconomic status, experiences of racism, and individual/cultural, family, peer, school, and neighborhood factors and developmental trajectories of substance use among monoracial and biracial Black adolescents and young adults.


This research represents an unparalleled opportunity to develop an understanding of the pathways to substance use for specific biracial Black subgroups. Further, this research will contribute to the understanding of the etiology of substance use trajectories and related health disparities among Blacks, and identify optimal timing and processes for substance use prevention programs.

Clark gave three presentations related to this topic at the 45th Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) Annual International Convention in New Orleans in August. She spoke on, “Racial Differences in Parent-Adolescent Relations and Alcohol Trajectories from Adolescence to Young Adulthood,” “Epidemiology of Substance Use Among Monoracial/Ethnic and Biracial/Ethnic Youth,” and “Cigarette Trajectories Among Monoracial and Biracial Blacks.”