The Relationship between Family Variables and Adolescent Substance Abuse: A Literature Review

Article excerpt

Substance abuse is a major problem confronting adolescents today. One out of every six teenagers suffers from chemical dependency (Thorne & DeBlassie, 1985). Adolescent drug addiction crosses a broad range of backgrounds (Thorne & DeBlassie, 1985) and affects physical, psychological, and social development (Green, 1979). Researchers have attempted to understand the etiology and perpetuation of drug abuse among adolescents but have found no specific causal factors. Rather, studies reveal that abuse is influenced by a "complex, interacting network of sociological, psychological and biological variables" (Barnes, 1977; Campbell, 1983). One area of focus has been the family. Researchers have found a relationship between teenage substance abuse and certain characteristics of the family. A review of the current literature reveals two broad categories of characteristics: family drug usage patterns and family atmosphere.

Family Drug Usage Patterns

Family drug usage is one category that may influence adolescent substance abuse. Table 1 shows that the use of mind-altering chemicals by family member(s) significantly increases the chance that other family members will use drugs (Adler & Lotecka, 1973; Beardslee, Son, & Valliant, 1986; Blum, 1972; Craig & Brown, 1975; Needle, McCubbin, Wilson, Reineck, Lazar, & Mederer, 1986; Tec, 1974; Tolone & Dermott (1975). The overall influence of family members can be seen in the results of a study by Craig and Brown (1975) who found that a high percentage of adolescent substance users reported drug use in the immediate family.

Table 1

Studies of Family Drug Usage Patterns

Investigator   S(*)   NS(**)            Finding

Tec             x              positive association between
(1974)                         parent's and children's
                               consumption of drugs

                x              more parental drug use among
                               adolescents who use marijuana
                               regularly than nonusers

                x              less parental drug use among
                               adolescents who are abstainers
                               than regular marijuana users

Tolone &        x              positive relationship between
Dermont                        parental smoking and drinking
(1975)                         habits and adolescent's use of

                        x      no relationship between parental
                               smoking and drinking habits and
                               adolescent's use of hallucinogens

                x              perceived seriousness of parental
                               drinking relates positively to
                               adolescent use of marijuana

                        x      perceived seriousness of parental
                               smoking does not relate to
                               adolescent's use of drugs

                x              parental use of sleeping pills and
                               tranquilizers relates positively to
                               adolescent's use of marijuana and
                               somewhat relates to adolescent's
                               use of hallucinogens

Craig &         x              adolescent drug users report more
Brown                          drug users among family
(1975)                         members than nonusing

Needle,                 x      mothers' and fathers' use of
McCubbin,                      drugs does not relate to
Wilson,                        adolescent use
Lazar, &        x              older sibling substance use relates
Mederer                        positively to adolescent's use

Adler &         x              adolescent drug users report a
Lotecka                        higher percentage of parental
(1973)                         drug usage than adolescent

Beardslee,      x              positive relationship between
Son, &                         parental and child alcoholism

Blum            x              parents of "high-risk" adolescents
(1972)                         tend to be regular drinkers

                x              "high-risk" adolescents report
                               more maternal alcohol problems
                               than "low-risk" adolescents

                x              fathers of "high risk" adolescents
                               report using alcohol for
                               "escapist" purposes

                x              siblings of drug users tend to be
                               users themselves

Cannon          x              offspring of drug-abusing families
(1976)                         are allowed or encouraged to find
                               escape rather than to cope with

                x              offspring of drug-abusing families
                               tend to show a pattern of feeling
                               unprepared to cope adequately

Jurich,         x              adolescent drug abusers report
Polson,                        more parental use of drugs and
Jurich, &                      denial as crutches than adolescent
Bates                          users
                x              high frequency of parental
                               hypocritical morality among
                               adolescent drug abusers

* S = Significant as reported by researcher
** NS = Not significant as reported by researcher

Parents' habits and attitudes toward mind-altering chemicals are significantly related to those of their children (Adler & Lotecka, 1973; Cannon, 1976; Tec, 1974; Tolone & Dermott, 1975). …


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