Fathers, Child Maltreatment, and Adolescent Substance Use

Body

Dr. Susan Yoon, College of Social Wok
Rank at time of award: Assistant Professor
and
Dr. Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, Department of Human Sciences
Rank at time of award: Professor
 

Summary

Adolescent substance use—including alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use—continues to be one of the most serious public health concerns in the United States. Substance use during adolescence is associated with a greater risk of experiencing negative health outcomes, including unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, physical health problems, and the subsequent development of substance dependence over a lifespan. Two important factors in understanding patterns of adolescent substance use trajectories include child maltreatment and the role of fathers. A solid body of research has suggested that child maltreatment (i.e., neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse) and father structural risk factors (e.g., father absence, nonbiological father in the home, instability in resident father) are related to increased use of substances in adolescence. However, little is known about whether and how child maltreatment and father structural risk factors at different developmental stages have differential influence in shaping patterns of adolescent substance use trajectories. Identification of sensitive periods in the effects of maltreatment and father structural risk factors will guide the investment of focused preventive efforts to critical windows of time when they can have the maximum impact in reducing risk for adolescent substance use. A relevant and important area of inquiry pertains to protective factors that may mitigate the negative effects of risk factors on adolescent substance use. Although there is evidence that a positive and close parent-child relationship reduces risk for substance use, the role of parent-child relationship quality in enhancing resilience to adolescent substance use has yet to be examined within the context of child maltreatment and father structural risk factors at various developmental stages. To fill these important gaps in the current knowledge base, a secondary analysis will be conducted using data from the Longitudinal Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN; N = 1,354). The proposed
research makes meaningful contributions to the fields of child maltreatment, family demography, and child health by addressing the critical need to identify predictive mechanisms and protective factors that determine distinct and unique patterns of substance use trajectories in adolescence. This research has three specific aims: (1) to examine how child maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect) at three developmental stages (i.e., early childhood [ages 0-5], middle childhood [ages 6-11], adolescence [ages 12-18]) is associated with patterns of adolescent substance use trajectories; (2) to examine how father structural factors (i.e., absence, type/biological relations, instability) at three development stages are associated with patterns of adolescent substance use trajectories; and (3) to test whether the quality of parentchild relationship moderates the effects of child maltreatment and father structural factors on patterns of adolescent substance use trajectories. Findings from this study will improve our understanding of sensitive periods in the effects of maltreatment and father structural risk factors as well as the protective role of parentchild relationship quality in determining unique patterns of substance use trajectories in adolescence, offering guidance for the development of more targeted and well-timed prevention and intervention strategies to curb adolescent substance use.
 

Narrative

The proposed research aims to identify sensitive periods of the life course when child maltreatment and father absence/instability have the greatest influence in increasing risk for adolescent substance use, and to determine if positive parent-child relationships can buffer these influences. This is an important public health priority considering that maltreated children and children living in non-traditional families (e.g., single-mother families, stepfather families, transient father families) are at heightened risk for adolescent substance use, which is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in adolescence. Findings generated from this research will inform us of the design and delivery of more targeted, well-timed interventions to most effectively
prevent or reduce adolescent substance use.
 

Publications resulting from this seed grant

Yoon, S., Kobulsky, J. M., Yoon, D., & Kim, W. (2017). Developmental pathways from child maltreatment to adolescent substance use: The roles of posttraumatic stress symptoms and mother-child relationships. Children and Youth Services Review, 82 (2017): 271-279. PMCID:PMC5831507
 
Yoon, S., Bellamy, J., Kim, W., & Yoon, D. (2018). Father involvement and behavior problems among preadolescents at risk of maltreatment. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27 (2): 494-504. PMCID:PMC5826550