JOURNAL ARTICLE

Moderation and mediation in the relationship between mothers' or fathers' serious psychological distress and adolescent substance use: findings from a national sample

Mindy A Herman-Stahl, Olivia Silber Ashley, Michael A Penne, Karl E Bauman, Jason Williams, Rebecca P Sanchez, Kellie M Loomis, Megan S Williams, Joseph C Gfroerer
Journal of Adolescent Health 2008, 43 (2): 141-50
18639787

PURPOSE: This study estimated percentages of adolescents living with a mother or father with serious psychological distress (SPD), and examined moderation and mediation of the relationships between mother or father SPD and adolescent substance use.

METHODS: We analyzed data from nationally representative samples of adolescents interviewed with their mothers (n = 4734) and fathers (n = 3176) in the combined 2002 and 2003 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs).

RESULTS: An estimated 4.1% of adolescents living with their father had a father with SPD during the past year, and 11.5% of adolescents living with their mother had a mother with SPD during this time period. A positive association was found between mothers' SPD and adolescent binge drinking (OR = 1.49, 95% CI = 1.01-2.21), but no association was found between fathers' SPD and adolescent binge drinking. Mothers' SPD was associated with increased risk of binge drinking among adolescents aged 14-15 years (OR = 2.52, 95% CI = 1.38-4.60), and fathers' SPD was associated with lowered risk of binge drinking among black adolescents (OR = .08, 95% CI = .01-.79). A positive association was found between mothers' SPD and adolescent illicit drug use (OR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.08-2.23), but no association was found between fathers' SPD and adolescent illicit drug use. Mothers' SPD was associated with increased risk of illicit drug use among female adolescents (OR = 2.14, 95% CI = 1.24-3.70) and among adolescents of white ethnicity (OR = 1.78, 95% CI = 1.19, 2.68). Parental involvement partially mediated the relationship between mothers' SPD and daughters' illicit drug use; mothers' SPD was associated with lower levels of parental involvement, which in turn were associated with an increased probability of daughters' illicit drug use.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, parents' SPD is associated differentially with adolescent substance use depending on the gender of parent and adolescent, adolescent age, race/ethnicity, and substance used. Parental involvement appears to be one mechanism through which mothers' SPD influences daughters' illicit drug use. Future research should further consider the interindividual effects of parents' SPD and associated parenting behaviors on adolescent risk behaviors.

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