Leveraging data from existing studies to glean new information about adolescent substance use

Our research group recently published a new paper that explores the many advantages of integrative data analysis (or IDA). IDA is an approach to combining and analyzing data across multiple, independent samples (a specific type of “data fusion”). Our recent paper explores several particularly salient advantages of IDA when applied to the study of high-risk child and adolescent behavior. First, pooling independent longitudinal samples with varying ranges of ages allow us to “stretch” or “accelerate” the passage of time by combining overlapping developmental cohorts. Second, studying substance use in children often leads to low cell counts due to the rare nature of the behavior, and pooling multiple samples can increase the number of cases reporting the rare outcomes. Finally, pooling samples enhances between subject heterogeneity thus strengthening our ability to generalize findings to a broader population of individuals. We demonstrate these advantages with a detailed worked example in which we generate score estimates for polysubstance use based on unique and shared substance use items drawn from three independent contributing studies. We hope others will find this paper useful as they explore the potential of IDA for their own research.

Curran, P.J., Cole, V.T., Giordano, M., Georgeson, A.R., Hussong, A.M., & Bauer, D.J. (in press). Advancing the study of adolescent substance use through the use of integrative data analysis. Evaluation and the Health Professions.