Parent, family, and neighborhood effects on the development of child substance use and other psychopathology from preschool to the start of adulthood

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 Jul;70(4):489-98. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2009.70.489.


Objective: We examined the long-term effects of childhood familial and neighborhood risk on adolescent substance use and psychiatric symptomatology.

Method: This study used data from an ongoing 2-decade long study that recruited alcoholic and neighborhood control families through fathers' drunk-driving records and door-to-door canvassing in a four county area. The sample included 220 male, initially 3- to 5-year-old children of the participant families, who received in-home assessments at baseline and thereafter at 3-year intervals. Parental lifetime psychopathology and offspring symptomatology at ages 18-20 were assessed by semistructured diagnostic interviews. Census tract variables were used to indicate neighborhood characteristics.

Results: The isomorphic parental symptomatology predicted offspring psychopathology. For marijuana-use disorder, major depressive disorder, and nicotine dependence, the other parental comorbidities were also significant predictors. Neighborhood residential instability in childhood contributed to the development of late adolescent alcohol-use disorder, marijuana-use disorder, major depressive disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and nicotine-dependence symptomatology. Although lower family socioeconomic status in childhood contributed to more adolescent marijuana-use disorder, major depressive disorder, and nicotine-dependence symptoms, neighborhood socioeconomic status did not predict adolescent psychopathology. Longitudinal changes in neighborhood environments from early childhood to adolescence had significant effects on alcohol-use disorder, marijuana-use disorder, and major depressive disorder symptoms in late adolescence. A higher frequency of family mobility from early childhood to adolescence predicted more nicotine-dependence symptoms in late adolescence.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that parental psychopathology, family socioeconomic status, and neighborhood residential instability are all important risk factors for the development of substance-use disorder and other comorbid psychopathology. Intervention programming might effectively use these early parental psychopathology indicators to identify risk and might target community activity to stabilize the social environment and provide youth services to counteract the effects of family transience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Health*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Models, Psychological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult