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European Adolescent Substance Use: The Role of Family Structure, Function and Gender

NCJ Number
Addiction Volume: 97 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 329-336
Paul McArdle; Auke Wiegersma; Eilish Gilvarry; Birgitta Kolte; Steven McCarthy; Michael Fitzgerald; Aoife Brinkley; Maria Blom; Ingo Stoeckel; Anna Pierolini; Ingo Michels; Rob Johnson; Stephan Quensel
Susan Savva
Date Published
March 2002
8 pages
This study examined the hypotheses that both family structure and function influenced risk for substance use in European populations, that these effects differed for males and females in different settings, and were independent of potentially confounding factors such as antisocial behavior, drug availability, or social class.
Prior European studies reported marked international and regional differences in rates of youth substance use. These differences did not correspond to levels of risk factors such as social class, delinquent behavior, or parental separation in a simple ways, suggesting that family factors are relevant to international variations in substance use. This study explored family structure and measures of family functioning in relation to adolescent substance use and established if these relationships differed according to gender or according to the city of origin in the sample. A cluster sampling method was used in order to obtain a representative sample of young people in each city. Pupils surveyed ranged in age from 14 to 15 years from five European cities: Newcastle upon Tyne, Dublin, Rome, Bremen, and Groningen. The survey instrument was a questionnaire derived from that of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) providing questions on family and drug use. Data were obtained on 3,984 participants in relation to their substance use, living with both biological parents, confiding in parents and grandparents, and supervision and other variables representing delinquency, social class, and drug availability. Study findings indicated that living with both parents and the quality of the parent-child relationship were associated independently with the rate of drug use by young people. In addition, in the absence of either the family structure or quality variables the rate of drug use was 42.3 percent. If both were present it was 16.6 percent and in the presence of either, approximately 32 percent. The rate of drug use in modern urban communities remained substantial even in the absence of family risk factors. It was concluded that both the quality of family relationships and the structure of families appear to be significant influences on youth drug use. Tables and references