Childhood risk categories for adolescent substance involvement: a general liability typology.

Research paper by Duncan B DB Clark, Jack R JR Cornelius, Levent L Kirisci, Ralph E RE Tarter

Indexed on: 21 Dec '04Published on: 21 Dec '04Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence


Childhood risks for adolescent substance involvement include parental substance use disorders (SUDs), psychological dysregulation and early tobacco and alcohol experimentation. This study was designed to identify childhood risk categories predicting accelerated adolescent substance involvement across drug types and stages. The index subjects were 560 children recruited from high risk (n = 266) or low risk (n = 294) families based on fathers' SUDs. Assessments were conducted at approximately ages 11 (baseline), 13, 16, and 19 years. Childhood predictors included parent SUDs, early tobacco or alcohol use (i.e., substance use), and neurobehavior disinhibition (ND) as determined by indicators of cognitive, affective and behavioral disinhibition. A cluster analysis defined five risk categories based on baseline characteristics as follows: (1) High (n = 31; 100% had both parents with SUDs, 100% had early substance use, and the mean ND score = 58.9); (2) Intermediate-High (n = 76; 45% had one parent with SUD, 100% early substance use and ND = 51.9); (3) Intermediate (n = 76; 100% both parents with SUDs, 0% early substance use and ND = 51.4); (4) Intermediate-Low (n = 161; 100% with one SUD parent; 0% early substance use and ND = 49.9) and; (5) Low (n = 216; no parental SUD, no early substance use and ND = 47.5). Compared with all other groups, children in the High risk group had significantly accelerated substance involvement across all substance types and stages. The ordering of risk categories from low to high was also consistent for all substance involvement outcomes. The findings indicate that these five risk categories constitute general liability classes for adolescent substance involvement, and may identify homogeneous groups of children requiring distinct preventive interventions.