Longitudinal Associations Between the Adolescent Family Environment and Young Adult Substance Use in Australia and the United States

Front Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 12;10:821. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00821. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

Introduction: Harmful alcohol and cannabis use are social concerns associated with a range of negative outcomes. Prior research has identified links between disrupted parent-child attachment and child-adolescent substance use. Materials and Methods: This study used cross-national data from the International Youth Development Study (IYDS; Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA) to investigate the relationship between early adolescent family environment characteristics, mid-adolescent attachment to parents, and young adult harmful alcohol and cannabis use. The moderating role of state on these relationships was also tested. State-representative samples of students in Grade 7 (age 13, 2002) were recruited and followed longitudinally at ages 14, 15, and 25 (n = 1,945, 53% female, 50% in Victoria). Results: Cross-state differences were evident in levels of family management, parent attitudes favorable to drug use, sibling alcohol and cannabis use, attachment to parents, and past year alcohol and cannabis use. Significantly higher rates of problematic alcohol use were reported by young adults in Victoria (25% vs. 14% in Washington State). Young adults in Washington State reported significantly higher rates of problematic cannabis use (14% vs. 10% in Victoria). Path modeling showed that characteristics of positive family environments (e.g., low conflict) in early adolescence were associated with higher attachment to parents and lower alcohol and cannabis use in mid-adolescence. Sibling substance use and more favorable parent attitudes to drug use were associated with past year alcohol and cannabis use in mid-adolescence. Results showed higher attachment to parents in mid-adolescence did not uniquely predict lower problematic alcohol or cannabis use in young adulthood. No significant cross-state differences in this pattern of associations were found. Discussion: The implications of the current findings suggest that prevention and intervention strategies targeted at reducing problematic substance use into young adulthood may benefit from considering the influence of behavioral norms and attitudes in family relationships.

Keywords: AUDIT; adolescence; attachment; cannabis; cross-state study; family environment; longitudinal study; young adulthood.