All About Addiction

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Maybe it's not all about friends: Parents, race, alcohol, and drug abuse

Race matters when looking at drinking influence

Have you ever asked yourself where it is that kids learn about drug use? Parents have long been known to protect their young ones from "bad" influences from outside, but a recent study at Yale shows that a major source influence still exists within the home.

Interestingly, the researchers, headed by Dr. William R. Corbin, found that family drinking patterns affected kids of different ethnicities differently. The researchers collected web questionnaires from over 2000 young adults to assess the influence of family drinking, social-group drinking, and thoughts about drinking on the actual behavior of entering freshmen.

Friend Vs family - Racial differences

As usual, peer influence was found to be the strongest predictor of the participants' actual drinking (in terms of average drinks per day, and frequency of drinking), accounting for almost half of the overall drinking behavior.

However, peer influence was much stronger for White participants than for Latino ones. On the other hand, family drinking habits were twice as important in affecting Latino kids' drinking as White kids' behavior.

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The difference in the source of the influence helps explain the gender gap in drinking that exists among Latinos. While White men and women seem to drink about equally, among Latinos, drinking is much more common in men than in women. Young Latina women probably learn early on that drinking is much more acceptable among men and that they are expected to drink less. This is not to undermine the importance of social-group drinking among the Latino participants here, which still accounted for the lion's share of the alcohol consumption, even in this group.

How does this help us?

The important issue here is in determining which interventions might be most effective in reducing drinking. Obviously, family-based interventions would be less likely to help among the White kids in this sample, though they most likely would reduce drinking among Latino kids.

Overall, the results seem to suggest that one of the major sources of influence on drinking behavior, and most likely drug-using behavior, is still found within the home. This is especially true when considering the larger picture, given that even a child's peers are influenced by their own parents...

 

© 2010 Adi Jaffe, All Rights Reserved

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Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is the executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health and a lecturer at UCLA and California State University Long Beach.

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