Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 373-393

First online:

Temporal Influences of Family Structure and Family Risk Factors on Drug Use Initiation in a Multiethnic Sample of Adolescent Boys

  • Andres G. GilAffiliated withFlorida International University
  • , William A. VegaAffiliated withUniversity of California
  • , Frank BiaforaAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, St

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This study examines the effects of family structure and family environments on the initiation of illicit drug use among a sample of U.S.- and foreign-born Hispanic/Latino, African American, and White non-Hispanic adolescent boys (N = 3413). Bivariate and multivariate analyses with longitudinal data, three years, were used to assess transitional/temporal influences of family variables on the initiation of illicit drug use. Findings revealed large differences in family structure among the three race/ethnic groups. African American adolescents report the lowest incidence of illicit drug use initiation, and the weakest effects of family structure and environment on substance use. Cumulative effects of family risk factors were strongly associated with increased probabilities of illicit drug use initiation, but there were temporal as well as race/ethnic variations on these effects. Deteriorating changes in family environments were stronger predictors of the initiation of drug use among Hispanic immigrants than nonimmigrants, and family socioeconomic status was a predictor for immigrant Hispanics only. The relationship between family structure and drug use initiation varied in the context of temporal indicators of family environments, and the accumulation of family risk factors was a stronger predictor of illicit drug initiation than family structure.