Expression as Prevention: Modeling the Impact of Family Emotional Expression on the Association between Temperament and Adolescent Substance Use




Zinsser, Katherine M.

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At moderate levels, adolescents‟ propensity to take risks is developmentally appropriate; however, some teens go beyond appropriate experimentation and develop dependencies on illicit substances. The connections between difficult temperament and later adolescent behavior problems have been well supported but not all children who display difficult temperaments develop serious behavior or conduct problems. Recently, researchers have turned to examining the home environment and its impact on the development of risky behavior problems such as substance use and abuse. This study examines the emotional environment in the home, temperament, and their connections to the development of substance use problems adolescence. Latent growth curve analyses were conducted using longitudinal data from the National Institute on Child Development‟s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) (N=1,364) and revealed an indirect association between effortful control and adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs that is transmitted through the change in positive family emotional expression over time. The inclusion of gender in the model exposed a stable drinking rate for girls across all levels of effortful control, but found that boys who drank tended to be rated lower by mothers on effortful control scales in preschool. The implications of these findings, and the role of prevention interventions in the home throughout childhood, are discussed.



Emotional expression, Adolescent, Temperment, Substance use, Prevention, Structural equation modeling