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Genet Soc Gen Psychol Monogr. 1990 May;116(2):111-267.

The psychosocial etiology of adolescent drug use: a family interactional approach.

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Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029.


The purpose of this monograph was to propose a framework, family interactional theory, for explaining the psychosocial aspects of adolescent drug use. Three themes are stressed: (a) the extension of developmental perspectives on drug use, (b) the elucidation of family (especially parental) influences leading to drug use, and (c) the exploration of factors that increase or mitigate adolescents' vulnerability to drug use. We present a developmental model with two components; the first deals with adolescent pathways to drug use, and the second incorporates childhood factors. The model was tested in two studies: one cross-sectional study of 649 college students and their fathers, and one longitudinal study of 429 children and their mothers. The subjects were given self-administered questionnaires containing scales measuring the personality, family, and peer variables outlined in the model. The results of each study supported the hypothesized model, with some differences between parental influences. We also found that individual protective factors (e.g., adolescent conventionality, parent-child attachment) could offset risk factors (e.g., peer drug use) and enhance other protective factors, resulting in less adolescent marijuana use. Implications of the findings for prevention and treatment, future research, and public policy are discussed.

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