Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use

Article excerpt

Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), this article investigates a number of hypotheses used to explain the relationship between family structure and adolescent drug use. In particular, using linked communitylevel data, an explicit examination of hypotheses drawn from a community-context model is conducted. These hypotheses posit that the impact of family structure on adolescent behavior is, in part, explained by the different types of communities within which families reside and that community characteristics moderate the impact of family structure on drug use. The results of multilevel regression models fail to support these hypotheses; adolescents who reside in single-parent or stepparent families are at heightened risk of drug use irrespective of community context. Moreover, adolescents who reside in single father families are at risk of both higher levels of use and increasing use over time. A significant communitylevel effect involves jobless men: Adolescents are at increased risk of drug use if they reside in communities with a higher proportion of unemployed and out-of-workforce men.

Key Words: adolescent drug use, community context, family structure.

Although the prevalence of some forms of adolescent drug use has decreased in recent years (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 2000), the etiology of use continues to be an important research topic. Adolescents who use drugs are at heightened risk of low academic achievement, high school dropout, early sexual initiation, and marital disruption in adulthood (Newcomb & Bentler, 1988). An interesting parallel is that these detrimental outcomes are also linked to family structure. In fact, the diverse effects of family structure on a host of social and behavioral outcomes makes it a continuing source of social science research. For example, a substantial body of literature indicates that living with a biological mother and father reduces the risk of delinquent behavior (Matsueda & Heimer, 1987), school dropout (Astone & McLanahan, 1994), and adolescent drug use (Flewelling & Bauman, 1990; Hoffmann & Johnson, 1998; Thomas, Farrell, & Barnes, 1996). Most early studies compared single-parent and two-parent families and determined that the former were detrimental for several adolescent outcomes. However, the past 15 years or so have seen more refined research directed toward (a) more specific measures of family structure and (b) exploring the conceptual links between family structure and adolescent behavior.

Many contemporary studies of family structure have addressed differences among adolescents from single-parent, stepparent, and two-biological-parent families. This more nuanced attention is driven partly by the rapid increase of stepparent and single-father families (Bianchi, 1995; IhingerTallman, & Pasley, 1997). Moreover, as large data sets with sufficient numbers of various family types (e.g., father-stepmother) have become available researchers have studied not only the number of parents but also the gender of the parent. A common hypothesis is that living with a same-sex parent reduces the risk of detrimental outcomes. Although recent studies find little support for this same-sex hypothesis (Downey, Ainsworth-Darnell, & Dufur, 1998; Powell & Downey, 1997), a consensus is emerging that adolescents residing with stepparents may be at higher risk than adolescents in other types of families of various forms of deviant behavior, including drug use (Hoffmann & Johnson, 1998; Ihinger-Tallman & Pasley, 1997).

The second trend involves the search for conceptual links between family structure and adolescent outcomes. A variety of studies show that part of the family structure effect is attributable to parent-child relations, differences in family income, and residential mobility. For instance, the heightened risk of school dropout among adolescents in single-mother families is attributable largely to low income in these families, thus supporting an economic resources explanation of family structure effects (McLanahan & Booth, 1989). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.