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Five Classes Of Risk Factors For Adolescent Use And Abuse Of Substances


1. Peer Factors

  • Peer substance use
  • Positive peer attitudes toward substance use
  • Greater attachment to peers (than to parents)
  • Perception of similarity to peers who use substances

2. Parent/Family Factors

  • Parental substance use
  • Positive parental attitude about substance use and beliefs about harmlessness of substances
  • Parental tolerance of adolescent substance use
  • Lack of attachment between parents and child
  • Lack of parental involvement with child’s life
  • Lack of appropriate supervision/discipline
  • Parental antisocial behavior
  • Family history of psychopathology
  • Family disruption (e.g. divorce)

3. Individual Factors

  • Early childhood characteristics such as conduct disorder and aggression
  • Poor academic performance/school failure
  • Early onset of substance use, especially prior to 15
  • Positive attitudes/beliefs about substance abuse
  • Risk‐taking/sensation‐seeking behavior
  • High tolerance of deviance/nonconformity relative to traditional values
  • Positive expectancies regarding the effects of substances
  • External locus of control
  • Extroversion
  • Low self‐esteem
  • Poor impulse control
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Impaired coping skills
  • Interpersonal/social difficulties
  • Traumatic experiences (e.g. childhood physical or sexual abuse)

4. Biologic Factors

  • Genetically controlled physiological processes and characteristics (e.g., altered sensitivity to alcohol or inherited temperament)

5. Community/Social/Cultural Factors

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • High population density
  • Low population mobility
  • Physical deterioration
  • High Crime
  • Increased unemployment
  • Deviant norms, which condone the use of substances
  • High alienation of the citizens
  • Availability of substances

Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS