The effects of family stressors on substance use initiation in adolescence
- 425 Downloads
Smoking and drinking are critical problems in adolescence that have long-term adverse impacts on health and socio-economic factors. We examine the extent to which family stresses influence the timing of initiation of smoking and drinking. Using national panel data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) we capitalize on the survey design and use school-level fixed effects that control for the local environments, including prices of cigarettes and alcohol. In addition, we narrow our control group to classmates who will experience a similar stressor in the future. We find that a composite measure of family stressors when young increases the likelihood of initiating tobacco and alcohol use, with much of the impact attributable to parental divorce. In our baseline estimates, the composite stress measure is associated with a 30% increase in the likelihood of smoking and a 20% increase in drinking. When we control for multiple sources of confounding, the impact shrinks and remains significant for smoking but not for drinking. We conclude that studies which do not control for confounding are likely to significantly overestimate the impact of family stress on substance use. Our approach helps to move the literature forward by separating causal results from spurious associations.
KeywordsSubstance use Family stress Confounding
JEL ClassificationI12 J12 D10
This work was supported by the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research Common Fund through the following grants: RL1-AA017542, UL1-DE019586 and the PL1-DA024859.
- Fletcher, J. M. (2009). Peer influences on alcohol consumption. Working Paper, Yale University.Google Scholar
- Fletcher, J. M., & Sindelar, J. L. (2010). The effects of family stressors on substance use initiation in adolescence. Available: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1726141.
- Gerrard, M., Gibbons, F. X., Zhao, L., Russell, D. W., & Reis-Bergan, M. (1999). The effect of peers’ alcohol consumption on parental influence: A cognitive mediational model. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 13, 32–44.Google Scholar
- Rose, R. J. (1998). A developmental behavioral-genetic perspective on alcoholism risk. Alcohol Health & Research World, 22, 131–143.Google Scholar
- Spielberger, C. D. (1986). Psychological determinants of smoking behavior. In R. D. Tollison (Ed.), Smoking and society: Toward a more balanced assessment (pp. 89–134). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
- Surgeon General Report. (1994). Preventing tobacco use among young people. A report of the Surgeon General, 1994. Atlanta: US Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, (US Government Printing Office Publication No S/N 017-001-00491-0).Google Scholar
- Surgeon General Report. (2004). The health consequences of smoking: A report of the surgeon general. USDHHS, Office the Surgeon General. www.surgeongeneral.gov.
- Wills, T. A., & Shiffman, S. (1985). Coping and substance use: A conceptual framework. In S. Shiffman & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Coping and substance use (pp. 3–24). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar