Middle school teacher support lowers risk for early alcohol use

March 21, 2012, Seattle Children's

Anxiety, depression, stress and social support can predict early alcohol and illicit drug use in youth, according to a study from Carolyn McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children's Research Institute, and researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle University. Middle school students from the sixth to the eighth grade who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in alcohol and other illicit substance initiation. Those who reported higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also at decreased risk for early alcohol use. The study, "Emotional Health Predictors of Substance Use Initiation During Middle School," was published in advance online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Relatively few studies have examined support for youth from nonfamily members of the adolescent's social support network, including teachers. "Our results were surprising," said Dr. McCarty, who is also a University of Washington research associate professor. "We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use." defined teacher support as feeling close to a teacher or being able to talk with a teacher about problems they are experiencing.

Youth that are close to or even cling to parents can have separation anxiety and may be less susceptible to negative influences from peers, including experimentation with like alcohol use. "Teens in general seek new sensations or experiences and they take more risks when they are with peers," said Dr. McCarty. "Youth with separation may be protected by virtue of their intense connection to their parents, making them less likely to be in settings where substance use initiation is possible," she said.

The study also found that youth who initiated alcohol and other prior to sixth grade had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms. This suggests that depression may be a consequence of very early use or a risk factor for initiation of use prior to the years. Depression was defined by asking youth about their mood and feelings, and asking them if statements such as "I felt awful or unhappy" and "I felt grumpy or upset with my parents" were true, false or sometimes true during a two-week timeframe.

"Based on the study and our findings, substance use prevention needs to be addressed on a multidimensional level," said Dr. McCarty. "We need to be aware of and monitor early adolescent stress levels, and parents, teachers and adults need to tune into kids' mental health. We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications."

Dr. McCarty Offers Tips for Parents to Help Reduce Early Alcohol Use

  • Know where your child is, and check in with your child on a regular basis
  • Get to know your child's friends, and who your child spends time with
  • Teach stress management skills
  • Help your child feel connected with adults at school
Dr. McCarty and the research team analyzed data from the Developmental Pathways Project, a longitudinal study of 521 youth sampled from the Seattle Public Schools. Researchers analyzed the effects of depression, anxiety, stress and support on initiation of substance use, which was measured at five different time points between sixth and eighth grade.

Seattle Children's Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Washington and Seattle University, will continue to study this topic, next looking at the timing between youth substance use and depression, as well as how intervention programs for depression impact .

Explore further: Family relationships may protect early teens from alcohol use

More information: "Emotional Health Predictors of Substance Use Initiation During Middle School," study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors: psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=b … uy&id=2011-22905-001

Related Stories

Family relationships may protect early teens from alcohol use

June 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Close family relationships may protect teenagers from alcohol use, according to research by The University of Queensland’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research (CYSAR) and the Centre for Adolescent ...

40 percent of youths attempting suicide make first attempt before high school

November 28, 2011
Thoughts about killing oneself and engaging in suicidal behavior may begin much younger than previously thought. While about one of nine youths attempt suicide by the time they graduate from high school, new findings reveal ...

School bullies more likely to be substance users, study finds

March 5, 2012
Middle- and high-school students who bully their classmates are more likely than others to use substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, a new study found.

Gender differences in risk pathways for adolescent substance abuse and early adult alcoholism

June 10, 2011
Clinically ascertained reports suggest that boys and girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may differ from each other in their vulnerability to substance use problems, say the researchers of the University ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.