Underage drinking among girls is a growing problem. Monitoring the Future data indicate that young adolescent girls' alcohol use has been consistently higher compared to their male peers since 2002. Informed by family interaction theory – which posits that adolescents' alcohol use is a product of the interplay among psychological, peer, and family domains and highlights the protective values of family processes – this study investigated the direct and indirect effects of family factors on girls' drinking. We hypothesized that (1) familial factors, namely maternal drinking, parental monitoring, family rules against drinking, parental involvement, and mother-daughter communication, would be associated with girls' drinking after controlling for the contributions of psychological and peer variables; (2) familial domain variables would explain girls' drinking over and above that accounted for by psychological and peer domain variables; and (3) familial domain variables would modify the effects of psychological and peer factors on girls' drinking.
Study participants were recruited through advertisements in newspapers, public transportation, and radio stations, and postings on the website craigslist.org. Surveys assessed girls' past-30-day alcohol use, as well as girls' demographic, psychological, peer, and family characteristics. Data were analyzed through hierarchal logistic regressions. In the regression equation, we entered demographic variables in Block 1, psychological factors (i.e., depression, problem-solving ability, body esteem, and self-efficacy) in Block 2, peer alcohol use in Block 3, and familial factors in Block 4. To understand whether familial factors moderated the association of psychological factors and peer factors with girls' drinking, we developed separate interaction models for each of the interaction terms (five familial variables × four psychological and peer factors) and entered the interaction term in Block 5.
The sample was 1187 pairs of adolescent girls (Mean age = 12.83 years; 34.9% were Black, 26.2% were White, 21.1% were Latino, 8.5% were Asian, and 9.3% were mixed race) and their mothers (Mean age = 40.28 years).
Study results indicated that the addition of familial domain contributed to girls' drinking significantly (p < .0001). Whereas maternal drinking was positively associated with girls' drinking (p < .01), parental monitoring (p < .001), family rules against alcohol use (p < .05), and parental involvement (p < .05) were negatively associated with girls' alcohol use.
The interactional analyses indicated the relationship between peer drinking and girls' drinking was weaker when the family had rules against drinking (p < .05). Among girls who had higher levels of body esteem, those whose parents were more involved and those who had more communication with their mothers were less likely to have drunk (both p's < .05).
Conclusions and Implications:
Drawn from a large, ethnically-diverse sample, the study supports family interaction theory and suggests that familial factors not only directly impact girls' drinking, but also that these factors may safeguard against peer and psychological risks. To be effective, alcohol abuse prevention programs for adolescent girls should begin early, involve parents, and address the interplay of risk and protective factors in multiple domains.