Testing whether and when parent alcoholism uniquely affects various forms of adolescent substance use

Andrea M. Hussong, Wenjing Huang, Daniel Serrano, Patrick J. Curran, Laurie Chassin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The current study examined the distal, proximal, and time-varying effects of parents' alcohol-related consequences on adolescents' substance use. Previous studies show that having a parent with a lifetime diagnosis of alcoholism is a clear risk factor for adolescents' own substance use. Less clear is whether the timing of a parent's alcohol-related consequences differentially predicts the adolescent's own substance involvement. Using a multilevel modeling approach, we tested whether adolescents showed elevated rates of alcohol, heavy alcohol, marijuana and other illegal drug use (a) at the same time that parents showed alcohol-related consequences (time-varying effects), (b) if parents showed greater alcohol-related consequences during the child's adolescence (proximal effects), and (c) if parents had a lifetime diagnosis of alcoholism that predated the child's adolescence (distal effects). We tested these effects in a high-risk sample of 451 adolescents assessed over three waves beginning at ages 11-15 from 1988 to 1991 (53 % male, 71 % non-Hispanic Caucasian, 54 % children of alcoholic parents and 46 % matched controls). Strong and consistent distal effects of parent alcoholism on adolescent's substance use were found, though no additional risk was associated with proximal effects. Limited time-varying effects were also found. The importance of differentiating the timing effects of parent alcoholism in identifying underlying mechanisms of risk for adolescent substance use is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1276
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Parent alcoholism
  • Substance use
  • Time-varying effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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