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There is a need for longitudinal research to understand how psychopathology relates to the onset and maintenance of substance use from adolescence into young adulthood. Hence, we investigate the longitudinal, reciprocal influences of internalizing (anxiety and depression) and externalizing (oppositional defiance) symptoms on heavy episodic drinking (HED; ≥5 drinks per occasion) and alcohol-related harms in a community-based sample of youth aged 12–27 years. Participants were chosen from the Victoria Healthy Youth Survey, followed six times, biennially between 2003 and 2013 (N = 662). Analyses used cross-lagged panel models to examine reciprocal relations over time. Differences across age and sex were also tested. Defiance symptoms predicted increases in HED, which reciprocally predicted increases in defiance symptoms for females. Internalizing symptoms were related to HED within time for females. Alcohol-related harms had reciprocal positive associations with internalizing and defiance symptoms for both males and females. Associations were largely invariant across age groups, suggesting that the presence and strength of associations persisted across development. While psychopathology preceded the onset of HED and harms, the overall findings suggest that these risk processes are mutually reinforcing across development and that youth may become entrenched in an interdependent cycle that significantly increases their risk of comorbid disorders in adulthood.
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