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Title: Family influences on adolescent alcohol use
Author: Gossrau-Breen, Diana D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2673 9153
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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The thesis explores influences of the alcohol-specific (e.g. alcohol use, attitudes) and nonalcohol-specific (e.g. relationship quality) family environment on similarity and differences in adolescent siblings' alcohol use. Previous research has shown the importance of siblings for adolescent adjustment (Plomin & Daniels, 1987; Rowe & Gulley, 1992). However, research exploring family influences on siblings' alcohol use is scarce in the UK. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, this thesis attempts to make a comprehensive account of family influence. Social learning principles (Bandura, 1977) such as modelling-imitation and reinforcement (via attitudes, norms) are considered as alcohol-specific mechanisms within families, accounting for similarity in parent-child dyads and sibling pairs. Regarding the influence of the non-alcohol-specific family environment, it is drawn on family systems theory (Minuchin, 1985), stresses and strains on parenting, and differential parenting approaches. This explores interrelations between marital, parent-child, and sibling relationships, and adolescent alcohol use (Hetherington et ah, 1999) within which models of siblings' differential intrafamilial experiences are integrated. Particular attention is given to the role of gender throughout this thesis. The study reported here used a cross-sectional design. It included 116 intact families, applying a multiple informant approach. During home visits, each parent and two siblings (younger siblings: 11-15 years, older siblings: 14-19 years) completed standardised questionnaires on demographics, alcohol/substance use, attitudes, family relationships, and other aspects of adolescents' life, combining self-reports and perceptions of others. The analysis is divided into three results sections and employs a variety of statistical methods (descriptive statistics, correlational and regression analyses, analysis of variance). Descriptive results (Chapter 5) of the level of family members' alcohol/substance use indicate that both parental and adolescents' use was lower than national surveys suggest. Differences in individual family members' self-reports and perceptions of the family environment support the use of self-reports of alcohol use and repeated analysis employing parent and child reports of family relationships. Findings on the alcohol-specific environment (Chapter 6) confirmed social learning processes. Male adolescents' alcohol use was related to parental and brothers' modelling, with parental norms being influential for older males' consumption. No such associations emerged for females regarding their parents or sisters. Older siblings' supply of alcohol was significantly associated with younger siblings' (excessive) alcohol use, but only among same-sex siblings. Neither parental alcohol norms nor perceived sanctions of adolescent alcohol use varied as a function of sibling gender similarity, but same-sex siblings experienced stricter parental alcohol norms than mixed-sex pairs. In relation to the non-alcohol-specific family environment (Chapter 7), parental alcohol use showed few disruptive effects on parenting behaviour. Marital quality affected the parent-child relationships of both siblings which in turn predicted sibling relationship quality, suggesting congruence in the quality among these family subsystems. Parenting toward each adolescent influenced this child's alcohol involvement. Younger adolescents showed lower alcohol use when their older sibling was exposed to marital discord. Generally, receiving the more favourable treatment relative to one's sibling resulted in lower alcohol involvement relative to this sibling. Sibling gender similarity moderated the siblings' level of monitoring and associations within the difference score models. Overall, the findings demonstrate the importance of the wider family environment for siblings' alcohol use and the role of gender in processes of social influence. Both parents and siblings provide opportunities for social learning of alcohol use. Child-specific experiences were the best predictors of adolescent alcohol use. However, the similarity in the climate of various family relationships reflects the importance of shared, family-level influences. Implications for alcohol education and prevention and recommendations for further research are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available