Childhood economic status affects substance use among young adults

Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:42 AM

Children who grow up in poverty are more likely than wealthier children to smoke cigarettes, but they are less likely to binge drink and are no more prone to use marijuana, according to Duke Medicine researchers.

Family worries about paying bills or needing to sell possessions for cash also affected a child’s self-control, regardless of strong parenting, according to a Duke Medicine news release. Lack of self-control can lead to substance use.

The Duke research findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology and provides a basis to improve prevention efforts aimed at young adults.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,285 children and caregivers included in a representative sample of U.S. families studied from 1986 to 2009. Economic status was measured by annual family income, plus a survey with questions about economic problems such as difficulty paying bills or postponing medical care, according to the release. Additional information was gathered to gauge childhood self-control and parental interactions.

Binge drinking was much more common among wealthier young people. Those who had good self-control as children were more likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking as young adults.

Neither wealth nor poverty appeared to influence marijuana use, although positive parenting did reduce the use of this drug. Parents who were nurturing and accepting diminished the likelihood of young people using any of the substances.

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