Background: Parental smoking and early-emerging nicotine dependence symptoms are well-documented risk factors for adolescent smoking. However, very little is known about the mediating pathways through which these risk factors may act, or whether parental smoking may cause or signal early-emerging nicotine dependence symptoms.
Methods: Data were drawn from the longitudinal Social and Emotional Contexts of Adolescent Smoking Patterns Study. Adolescents who had smoked under 100 cigarettes in their lifetime (n=594; low-exposure group) and adolescents who had smoked over 100 cigarettes, but fewer than 5 cigarettes per day (n=152) were included in the analyses. Path analysis was performed on longitudinal data to investigate the association between parental smoking and smoking frequency at the 48 months follow-up, both directly and through mediating variables of smoking frequency, smoking quantity, and nicotine dependence.
Results: Father's smoking was associated with higher adolescent nicotine dependence scores at the baseline assessment wave. Structural equation modeling revealed that mother's smoking at baseline was associated with adolescent's smoking frequency at the 48-month follow-up, and its effect was partially mediated by both smoking frequency and nicotine dependence among low-exposure adolescent smokers.
Conclusions: Parental smoking is a risk factor for future smoking in low-exposure adolescent smokers, above and beyond the risks posed by smoking behavior and nicotine dependence. Moreover, parental smoking is associated with early-onset nicotine dependence in low-exposure adolescent smokers. As an easily measureable risk factor, parent smoking status can be used to identify and intervene with novice adolescent smokers who are at high risk for chronic smoking behavior.
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