Drug Abusing Fathers

The purpose of this study is to ascertain the affects of drug-abusing fathers on
the drug usage of their young adolescent children. A special targeted population
were chosen for this study; they are the children of drug-abusing fathers who
are HIV-positive or at risk for becoming HIV-positive. The major factors used to
determine the dependent measure of adolescent marijuana use include certain drug
abusing father attributes (i.e., illegal drug use, HIV status, and methods of
coping), and adolescent personality which is directly affected by the
father-adolescent relationship and environmental factors (see pathway to
adolescent marijuana use). The focus of this paper will be on the influences of
parent-child relationship, father’s marijuana usage and HIV status of the
father on the adolescent’s marijuana use. These chosen domains (i.e., set of
related variables) are a part of the study needed to determine the pattern of
relationship between father drug use and adolescent drug use. This research is
an extension of an earlier study of the psychosocial factors related to the
AIDS-risk behaviors and methods of coping among male injection drug users [e.g.,
1]. By focusing on the parental approach, it is hope that this information will
allow a father to be a more effective parent and assist him in raising his
children in a way that they wouldn’t need to turn to drugs to cope with
life’s difficulties (i.e., having a drug abusing father that is at risk of
becoming HIV positive). Methods Participants: Participants were male volunteers
recruited from AIDS clinics and methadone maintenance treatment clinics, with a
history of drug abuse (i.e., must have engaged in either injection drug use or
another form of illicit drug abuse during the past five years). Only those
volunteers who agreed to be interviewed along with one of their 13-20-year-old
children were recruited for participation. In order to qualify for participation
in the study, the men had to be either living with the child or have seen the
child at least four times in the past year (majority of the children live with
the mother). A total of one hundred and one father-child pairs participated in
this study; 71 identified themselves as African-American and 27 identified
themselves as White (the other three identified themselves as other). All father
participants had used intravenous drugs or illicit drugs (other than marijuana
or in addition to marijuana) by a non-injection route of administration within
the past five years. Participants that were not considered for this study
include those who had AIDS dementia, those who were too sick to participate in
the study, and those who had a major psychiatric disorder (i.e., bipolar
disorder or schizophrenia). Each patient voluntarily reported his own HIV
status. Over 98% of the subjects’ reports of their HIV status were confirmed
by the ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay) and the Western Blot tests. Of
the 101 father participants, 38% were HIV positive and 62% were HIV negative.


Only children who were already aware of their fathers’ HIV status were
qualified to participate in the study. Procedure: After providing informed
consent, each father-child pair was interviewed for approximately four hours
using a structured questionnaire. The interviewers were either counselors or
social workers at an AIDS clinic or a methadone maintenance treatment clinic and
had extensive experience working with substance abusers and/or HIV positive
patients. Every attempt was made to match the participants and the interviewers
in terms of their ethnic backgrounds. The interviews were conducted privately
and the confidentiality of the data was strictly preserved. Each father-child
pair participant was given $50 to compensate for his/her time and expenses.

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Measures: The scales used in this study were based on their item (question)
inter-correlation. These scales were grouped into four domains: Father’s
attributes, father-child relationship, adolescent’s personality, and
environmental factors. The father attributes include his HIV status, illegal
drug use, and methods of coping with HIV or the risk of having HIV. The measure
of the father’s illegal drug use was derived from a combined score of the
father’s report of his illegal drug use and the child’s report of the
father’s illegal drug use. It is found in previous studies that by combining
the parent and children’s responses to measures provides a greater
predictability than using one source alone. The father-child relationship domain
include measures of warmth/affection, parenting variables (such as mother’s
parenting style and father’s parenting style such as rules and discipline),
child’s identification with both parents (admiration, emulation), father-child
conflict, and the amount of time the father and child spent together. Except for
the child’s identification with the father scale, which is solely from the
child’s scores, all the father-child relationship scales were from a combined
score of each father’s and his child’s questionnaires. The adolescent
personality domain includes intolerance of deviance, rebelliousness,
delinquency, aggression, sexual activity, and other measures of problem
behavior. These measures were all taken only from the child’s self-reports.


The last domain, environmental, included measures of school environment,
victimization, and gang membership. These measures were also taken only from the
reports of the child. Analyses: Pearson correlation coefficients were computed
between the scales in the two domain chosen (i.e., father attributes and
father-child relationships) and the adolescent’s past-year marijuana use. For
the purpose of this paper, I have chosen only the variables from the father
attributes and father-child relationship domains for the interaction-regression
analyses. This will allow us to examine the effect of a variable from one domain
in the presence of another domain will have on the child’s marijuana usage.


For all the analyses, the dependent variable was the adolescent’s frequency of
marijuana use during the year before the interview. Results Pearson correlation
coefficients were computed to examine the association between the father
attributes, the father child relationship factors, and the frequency of the
adolescent’s past year marijuana usage. (See table below). Correlation
Coefficients between Scale Measures and Frequency of Past Year Adolescent
Marijuana Use Scale Measures Adolescent Marijuana Use Father AIDS 0.07 Father
Marijuana use 0.25* Father Admiration-Youth -0.20* Mother Admiration-Youth
-0.36*** Father Affection-Youth -0.28** Mother Affection-Youth -0.29** Youth
Mother Warmth-Father -0.22* Youth Father Warmth-Father -0.18+ Father child-centerness-Youth
-0.20* Mother child-centerness-Youth -0.27** Father Conflict-Youth 0.24* Mother
Conflict-Youth 0.26** Youth Father Discipline-Father -0.23* Father Extreme
Autonomy-Youth 0.21* Mother Extreme Autonomy 0.24* Youth Father Extreme
Autonomy-Father 0.17+ (Table continues) Correlation Coefficients between Scale
Measures and Frequency of Past Year Adolescent Marijuana Use Scale Measures
Adolescent Marijuana Use Father Rules-Youth -0.25* Mother Rules-Youth -0.29**
Youth Mother Rules-Father -0.44*** Youth Father Rules-Father -0.22* Father Time
Spent-Youth -0.17+ Mother Time Spent-Youth -0.35*** Youth Mother Time
Spent-Father -0.24* Youth Father Time Spent-Father -0.22* Mother
Similarity-Youth -0.33*** Mother Emulation-Youth -0.37*** Father Emulation-Youth
-0.20* +p * 0.1 ; *p * 0.05 ; **p * 0.01 ; ***p * 0.001. This table consists of
only the scales significantly related to the adolescent marijuana usage with the
exception of father AIDS. From the table above, we see that the greater the
father’s marijuana usage the more frequent his child will use marijuana. A
close parent-child mutual attachment, the more admiration, affection, warmth,
and child-centerness the child feel from the parents, the less frequent the
child will use marijuana. The greater the conflict is between the parents is
associated with the child’s more frequent use of marijuana. In regards to
parenting variables, the greater the mother, father extreme autonomy or more
lenient, the more frequent the child will use marijuana. It makes sense then to
see that the more discipline the father reinforces, the less likely his child
will use marijuana. Likewise, the greater the reinforcement of the mother,
father rules, the less frequent the child will use marijuana. Especially the
mother rules. It might be because of the fact that majority of the children
resides with the mothers. With that said, we see that the more time the mother
spent with the child is strongly related with less frequent adolescent marijuana
use and the more time the father spent with the child will also help to reduce
the frequency of child’s marijuana usage. The same goes to mother similarity
and parents emulation with mother having the strongest effect on the reduction
of child’s marijuana usage. Interactions of Father and Youth Risk-Protective
Variables: A series of regression analyses was run in which a variable from one
domain was entered first then a variable from another domain, followed by the
interaction term (e.g., father AIDS status by one of the parenting variables). I
will discuss only the significant interactions, p * 0.05, since the others will
not provide any important information. In all cases, the dependent variable was
the past year frequency of adolescent marijuana use. The first set of regression
done was by taking father AIDS status and interacts with each of the parenting
variables. Although the father’s AIDS status did not emerge as a significant
main effect on the child’s marijuana use, it did show significance in the
presence of two other variables. The two significant interaction regression
analyses are: Father AIDS Status by Father Child-centerness and Father AIDS
Status by Time Spent with Mother. In the case that the father does not have
AIDS, the effectiveness of father child-centerness (high or low), would not make
a big difference in the adolescent marijuana use. If the father has AIDS and is
accompanied by low father child-centerness, we have a risk/risk interaction and
the adolescent marijuana use is very high. However, if father child-centerness
is high, then it buffers some of the risks to the adolescent marijuana use posed
by the father having AIDS. The same result is shown in the interaction of father
AIDS status by mother time spent with child. When the father has AIDS, and the
mother spends little time with the child, then the frequency of child marijuana
usage is high, where as it would be buffered by mother spending more time with
the child. The combined presence of these variables as risk/risk interactions
was more strongly associated with frequent marijuana use than each of these
variables considered alone. The next set of regression was done by interacting
the gender of the child with each of the parenting variables to predict the
adolescent marijuana usage. The significant ones are: Sex by Mother
Identification, Sex by Father Extreme Autonomy, Sex by Mother Extreme Autonomy,
and Sex by Mother Time Spent. In all cases, male child marijuana usage in
greater than female. For both male and female, if the child identified weakly
with the mother, marijuana use for the child increase (male using more than
female). The more lenient the father is, the more marijuana use for the male
child is affected. Females not affected by as greatly as male. The same goes for
lenient mothers. Both male and female are affected by the time spent with
mother. The less time mother spent with the children, the more highly used the
marijuana with males being affected more than females. Another set of
interaction regression was also conducted to see the effect of the parenting
variables on the adolescent marijuana use differ in the two race studied (black
and white). The significant interactions include ethnicity by father rules and
ethnicity by father’s time spent with child. If father rules are strong, then
the adolescent marijuana use in both races will be low. If the father rules are
weak, then the adolescent marijuana use is more at risk for white children than
for black children. It is highest for the three children that identified
themselves as ?other’ for ethnicity. The same result applied to father time
spent with child. When the father’s time spent with his child is high, the
adolescent marijuana use for both races is low. While father’s time spent with
the child is low is more risky for white children to use more marijuana than for
black children. Finally, father marijuana use is interacted with each of the
parenting variables. Only mother identification was significant in the
interaction regression with father marijuana use variable. The plot show if the
child is strongly identified with the mother, his/her marijuana use will be low
regardless if the father uses marijuana or not. When the child shows weak
identification with the mother, child marijuana use will increase; more strongly
effected in the presence of father’s marijuana use. Therefore mother
identification helped buffered the negative effects of the father’s marijuana
use risk factor on the child’s marijuana use. Discussion The overall
information suggest that a strong parent-child relationship helped offset the
negative effects of certain risk factors such as father having AIDS and father
using marijuana. Specifically, a more affectionate parent-child relationship,
characterized by warmth, good discipline, adolescent’s identification with the
parents (mother in particular), and a non-conflict relationship were related to
less frequent marijuana use by the child. We can then say that fathers who
spends a good deal of time with the children were less likely to have kids that
use drugs. The risk/protective interactive analyses show that white male
children are more at risk of marijuana use than white females or black children
provided that no parenting variable buffers the negative effect. This study
stresses the importance of parenting style and parental drug abuse affecting the
child’s marijuana usage. Programs should be established to assist the fathers
as well as the mothers in their parenting roles to reduce the and possibly
prevent marijuana usage for these children. This is a cross-sectional study
where both the father and his child are interviewed at the same time. A
longitudinal study is being conducted at this time to see how the adolescent
marijuana use would be different over time. We wouldn’t have access to this
information until it is complete. A larger sample will also be provided.

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