Gender-Specific Parent-Child Relationship Factors and Substance Use among At-Risk Adolescents


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Virginia Tech


Substance use is a growing concern among adolescents because it is a threat to their well-being and associated with negative outcomes in later life (NIH, 2014). Adolescence is a developmentally important time where independence grows, risks are taken, and some begin to experiment with substances (Burrow-Sanchez, 2006). Further, there is a high association between substance use and risk-taking behaviors, which can lead to involvement in the juvenile justice system. The rates of substance use are more alarming for juvenile delinquents (78%) (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2004). Along with risk factors associated with early onset substance use, researchers have identified several protective factors including involvement in positive relationships with parents. In this dissertation, I studied gender-specific relationships between parent and child that were associated with lower rates of substance use among at-risk adolescents. I investigated if this relationship mitigated the effects of negative peer association on substance use among adolescents. Hierarchical logistic regression was used to complete analysis using secondary data. The sample consisted of 166 adolescents who were involved in the juvenile justice system. Results showed that higher relationship quality with mothers was found to be statistically significant in predicting lower substance use. Overall, gender was not found to predict substance use, nor did it moderate the relationship between negative peer association and substance use. Results from this study can inform prevention and intervention efforts by heightening awareness regarding the protective nature of relationships with parents, specifically with mothers for at-risk adolescents. Further research is needed to explore these gender differences more in-depth. It will be important to continue to explore gender-specific relationships and the various aspects of parenting that can lower the risk for substance use among at-risk adolescents.



Parent-Child Relationships, Resilience, Protective Factors, Substance use, At-Risk Adolescents