Family-based treatment development for adolescent alcohol abuse

Int J Adolesc Med Health. Jan-Mar 2006;18(1):43-51. doi: 10.1515/ijamh.2006.18.1.43.


A range of family-related risk factors have been linked to adolescent alcohol problems and predict escalation of use and alcohol dependence into adulthood. Family-based interventions have strong research and clinical traditions in the treatment of adult alcoholism and adolescent drug abuse, but have been infrequently applied to the unique problems of adolescent alcohol abuse and dependence. Researchers in the adolescent alcohol abuse specialty area have developed a robust developmentally oriented knowledge base about alcohol-specific risk and protective factors. Adolescent alcohol treatment researchers have made significant advances in recent years, including a deeper understanding of outcome trajectories. However youth relapse to alcohol use at high rates following standard community-based treatment, and few empirically supported treatments exist for adolescent alcohol abusers. Employing selected contemporary research findings, this article outlines specific areas of focus for a family-based intervention for alcohol abusing teens. We first review intervention-relevant research on the development of alcohol problems among adolescents with a focus on family risk and protective factors. Second, clinical research findings are presented supporting the use of family-based interventions with alcohol abusing youth. Finally, areas of intended focus in an empirically supported family-based intervention for adolescent alcohol problems are outlined. By addressing these gaps, empirically supported family-based interventions for adolescent alcohol abuse have significant potential to advance the field of adolescent alcohol treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Family Therapy / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Secondary Prevention
  • United States