Cigarette Smoking among African American Youth from Single Mother Homes: Examining the Roles of Maternal Smoking and Positive Parenting within an Extended Family Framework

Article excerpt


The current study examined the main and interactive effects of three family context variables, maternal smoking, positive parenting behavior, and the quality of the mother's relationship with another adult or family member who assists with parenting (i.e., coparent), and adolescent smoking among African American youth from single mother homes. The pattern of findings revealed maternal warmth buffered the association between maternal smoking and adolescent smoking, but only in families characterized by high levels of mother-coparent conflict. Results suggest the protective role of maternal warmth may be overlooked in studies that fail to consider the broader family network within which maternal behaviors occur in many African American single mother families. Findings are discussed with regard to their implications for smoking prevention programs aimed at African American youth.

Keywords: Positive Parenting, smoking, protective factors, adolescents, African Americans.


Cigarette smoking is the single largest cause of preventable disease, chronic disability, and premature death in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2000). The vast majority of adult smokers initiate smoking during adolescence (CDC, 2001), with the transition from middle to high school representing a particularly vulnerable period (Brynin, 1999). Although smoking rates among adolescents have declined, 28% of all high school students report smoking in the past 30 days, with even higher rates among those in the 12th grade (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 2000). Accordingly, identifying correlates of cigarette use during this risky developmental transition is critical for the advancement of successful smoking prevention efforts.

Given that estimates of smoking rates in high school are lower among African American than White youth (CDC, 2001), relatively few psychosocial studies have examined correlates of smoking among African American adolescents. This relative inattention to African American youth is problematic, however, given a literature suggesting that African American youth may be more likely than White youth to underreport smoking (e.g., Bauman & Ennett, 1994), including reporting never smoking at follow-up in longitudinal studies in which they reported smoking at the baseline assessment (e.g., Shillington & Clapp, 2000). In addition, smoking has been shown to have more deleterious health consequences for African Americans than for Whites, including higher rates of lung cancer among African American than White smokers (e.g., Stewart, 2001; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998). In an effort to address the relative lack of attention to the psychosocial correlates of smoking among African American youth, the current study examined risk and protective factors within one important context for youth health and well-being, the family.

Although peer smoking has been identified as a robust correlate of adolescent cigarette use (see Hoffman, Sussman, Unger, & Valente, 2006, for a review), a growing literature highlights the important role of two family context variables as well, parental smoking and parenting behavior (e.g., Galambos, Barker, & Almeida, 2003). Parents who smoke are more likely to have adolescents who initiate cigarette smoking (e.g., O'Byrne, Haddock, Poston, & Mid-American Heart Institute, 2002) and who are less likely to quit or decrease their use of cigarettes once they start (Chassin, Presson, Rose, Sherman, & Prost, 2002; Fleming, Kim, Harachi, & Catalano, 2002).

Of course, not all adolescents whose parents smoke or have a history of smoking will use cigarettes themselves (O'Byrne et al., 2002), suggesting that other family context variables may moderate adolescent risk. Consistent with this notion, parenting style, particularly a positive parenting style characterized by parental warmth, support, and involvement, has been examined as a moderator of parental smoking (e. …


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