Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 10, pp 1954–1967 | Cite as

Increased Pre- and Early-Adolescent Stress in Youth with a Family History of Substance Use Disorder and Early Substance Use Initiation

  • Nora E. Charles
  • Charles W. Mathias
  • Ashley Acheson
  • Bethany C. Bray
  • Stacy R. Ryan
  • Sarah L. Lake
  • Yuanyuan Liang
  • Donald M. Dougherty
Empirical Research


Individuals with a family history of substance use disorders (Family History Positive) are more likely to have early-onset substance use (i.e., prior to age 15), which may contribute to their higher rates of substance use disorders. One factor that may differentiate Family History Positive youth who engage in early-onset substance use from other Family History Positive youth is exposure to stressors. The aim of this study was to quantify how exposure to stressors from age 11–15 varies as a function of family history of substance use disorders and early-onset substance use. Self-reported stressors were prospectively compared in a sample of predominately (78.9 %) Hispanic youth that included 68 Family History Positive youth (50 % female) who initiated substance use by age 15 and demographically matched non-users with (n = 136; 52.9 % female) and without (n = 75; 54.7 % female) family histories of substance use disorders. Stressors were assessed at 6-month intervals for up to 4 years. Both the severity of stressors and the degree to which stressors were caused by an individual’s own behavior were evaluated. All three groups differed from one another in overall exposure to stressors and rates of increase in stressors over time, with Family History Positive youth who engaged in early-onset substance use reporting the greatest exposure to stressors. Group differences were more pronounced for stressors caused by the participants’ behavior. Family History Positive users had higher cumulative severity of stressors of this type, both overall and across time. These results indicate greater exposure to stressors among Family History Positive youth with early-onset substance use, and suggest that higher rates of behavior-dependent stressors may be particularly related to early-onset use.


Substance use Stress Risk Early adolescence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nora E. Charles
    • 1
  • Charles W. Mathias
    • 1
  • Ashley Acheson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bethany C. Bray
    • 3
  • Stacy R. Ryan
    • 1
  • Sarah L. Lake
    • 1
  • Yuanyuan Liang
    • 4
  • Donald M. Dougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Neurobehavioral Research, Department of PsychiatryThe University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Research Imaging InstituteThe University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  3. 3.The Methodology CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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