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Teen Health 411

Fathers' Alcohol Use and Substance Use Among Teens

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Here is some interesting information that calls for continued education for families about the potential impact of fathers' alcohol use on teen substance use.

For those of you who may not know, alcohol abuse is defined using the criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which include symptoms such as withdrawal, tolerance, use in dangerous situations, trouble with the law, and interference in major obligations at work, school, and home during the past year.

The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported in June of 2009
  • 7.9 percent of fathers living with teens (aged 12 to 17) had an alcohol use disorder, while
  • 68.1 percent used alcohol without a problem, and
  • 24.1 percent did not use alcohol in the past year.
That is important because the alcohol and drug use of teens reflects the fathers' use of alcohol. Specifically, 21.1% of teens who live with a father who does not drink alcohol had used alcohol in the past year themselves, 33.2% of teens living with a father who drinks without having an alcohol use disorder had used alcohol in the past year, and 38.8% of teens living with a father with an alcohol use disorder had used alcohol in the past year.

More concerning to me was that the reported binge drinking behavior reported for the previous month reflected the same pattern.
  • 13.1 percent of teens living with fathers who had an alcohol use disorder reported binge drinking in the last month;
  • 9.2 percent of teens living with a father who used alcohol without a problem reported binge drinking in the previous month, and
  • 5.7 percent of teens living with a father who did not use alcohol reported binge drinking in the previous month.
The percentage of adolescents using illicit drugs in the past year also increases with the level of paternal alcohol use, increasing from 14% to 24%, along the categories of alcohol use described above.

It is clear that the substance abuse of parents has an impact on the substance abuse of teens - whether or not the parents' use in problematic.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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