Family Economics and Youth Substance Abuse
Children from wealthier families are more likely to binge drink than those who grow up in poverty, according to researchers at Duke Medicine, although impoverished children are more likely to smoke cigarettes. Neither wealth nor poverty appears to influence marijuana use, although positive parenting did reduce the use of this drug. Parents who were nurturing and accepting, in fact, diminished the likelihood of young people using any of the substances.
The researchers also found that economic strains in early life - including family worries about paying bills or needing to sell possessions for cash - erode a child's self-control, regardless of strong parenting in adolescence. Lack of self-control often leads to substance use.
Senior author Bernard Fuemmeler, associate professor in Community and Family Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, and his colleagues at Duke examined the direct effect of childhood economic strains on smoking, binge drinking and marijuana use in young adults. They also sought to determine how financial difficulties impact self-control, and how positive parenting might mitigate the tendency to use drugs and alcohol.
Data from 1,285 children and caregivers in a representative sample of U.S. families studied from 1986-2009 showed that impoverished children scored low on self-control measures and, surprisingly, that those who exercised self-control as children were more likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking as young adults.
The researchers also found no correlation between economic hardship and poor parenting - a contradiction to some other studies.
These findings were published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Learn more at jpepsy.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/6.toc (search for Fuemmeler).