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Instrumental Support from Parents and Substance Use During the Transition to Adulthood

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Abstract

Instrumental support from parents can be a protective factor in the lives of children and adolescents—one that serves to reduce the risks of drug and alcohol use. But the link between instrumental support from parents and substance use has seldom been explored in emerging adulthood. In particular, it is unclear whether instrumental support from parents during this stage in the life course is protective, or whether it enables young adults’ binge drinking and drug use. Four waves of panel data from the Pathways to Desistance Study are used. Multilevel models are estimated to examine the relationship between parental instrumental support (providing living expenses, loaning money, providing transportation, and shopping/cleaning/doing laundry) and two forms of substance use (binge drinking and illicit drug use) during the transition to adulthood (N = 1137 individuals; 3288 person-waves). Our findings indicate that instrumental support from parents is unrelated to changes in binge drinking or illicit drug use during emerging adulthood. This association was null regardless of the type of instrumental support provided, or how instrumental support was measured. Instrumental support also had no impact on substance use for individuals with prior histories of drug and alcohol use. The results raise questions about the salience of instrumental support from parents during emerging adulthood and instead suggest that parental support may matter most during earlier stages of the life course.

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Notes

  1. Additional information about the Substance Use/Abuse Inventory can be found at www.pathwaysstudy.pitt.edu.

  2. In addition to the binary measure of employment, we included other variations—such as weeks employed, less than 6 months employed, or employed 6 months or more during the recall period—in separate models. Regardless of which employment variables were included, relationships between the instrumental support and substance use variables remained similar in terms of magnitude and statistical significance.

  3. There is ample within-person variation in the independent and dependent variables over time. With respect to binge drinking, within-person deviations from person-specific means range from − 5.75 to 6.00 across waves (mean = .081, SD = 1.48), and for drug use, within-person deviations from person-specific means range from − 2.25 to 3.00 across waves (mean = .02, SD = .49). For each indicator of parental assistance, within-person deviations from person-specific means range from − 1.5 to 1.5 across waves (provide living expenses: mean = − .01, SD = .56; loan money: mean = .01, SD = .57; provide transportation: mean = − .01, SD = .59; help shop/clean/do laundry: mean = .01, SD = .60).

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Acknowledgments

We thank Travis Pratt and Brae Campion Young for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article. The Pathways to Desistance Study was supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2000-MU-MU-0007), the National Institute of Justice (1999-IJ-CX-0053), the National Institute of Drug Abuse (R01 DA019697-01), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Center for Disease Control, The William Penn Foundation, The Arizona Governor’s Justice Commission, and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. No direct funding from these agencies was received for this analysis. The content of this paper is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these agencies.

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Lloyd, K.M., Turanovic, J.J. Instrumental Support from Parents and Substance Use During the Transition to Adulthood. J Dev Life Course Criminology 6, 477–498 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40865-020-00154-4

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