European adolescent substance use: the roles of family structure, function and gender

P. McArdle, Auke Wiegersma, Eilish Gilvarry, Birgitta Kolte, Steven McCarthy, Michael Fitzgerald, Aoife Brinkley, Maria Blom, Ingo Stoeckel, Anna Pierolini, Ingo Michels, Rob Johnson, Stephan Quensel

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Objectives The aim or this study was, first, to explore family structure and measures of family functioning in relation to adolescent substance use and seeondly. to establish if these relationships differed according to gender or according to the city of origin of the sample.

Design, setting, participants The study surveyed pupils aged 14-15 years in representative samples drawn from five European cities: Newcastle upon Tyne. Dublin. Rome, Bremen and Groningen. Data were obtained on 3984 participants in relation to their substance use, living with both biological parents, confiding in parents and grandparents, and supervision, as well as other variables representing delinquency, social class and drug availability.

Results Living with both parents was associated with reduced levels of drug use in four cities but not in Dublin, due perhaps to the high availability from peers in that city. It was not associated with reduced levels of regular drinking. The effect of confiding in mother was evident in all cities and in relation to substance use in general. However, when a delinquency variable was added to the logistic regressions, its significance in relation to polydrug use disappeared. Supervision was somewhat more important in relation to male than female drug use.

Conclusion Living with both parents is a less robust barrier to substance use than qualitative aspects of family life. particularly attachment to mothers. The fatter is a robust inhibitor of substance use irrespective of regional differences in drug availability. weakening only in the face of more generally problematic behaviour. Perhaps because of their greater tendency to risk-taking or rule breaking, supervision appears more important for mate than female drug use. These findings underscore the role of families. but especially that of mothers. in regulating the substance-related behaviour of young people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2002


  • adolescent
  • protective factors
  • substance use

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