Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16073 Youth Substance Use and Changes In Parental Monitoring Over Middle School

Friday, January 13, 2012: 11:00 AM
Burnham (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Melissa Lippold, MA/MPP, Graduate Student, The Pennsylvania State University at University Park, State College, PA
Mark Greenberg, PhD, Bennett Chair of Prevention Research, Director Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, University Park, PA
Linda M. Collins, PhD, Director, Methodology Center, The Pennsylvania State University at University Park, State College, PA
Background: Low levels of parental monitoring, the extent to which parents track youth activities, has been consistently associated with high rates of youth problem behavior (Crouter & Head, 2002). However, measurement issues have made it difficult to identify which specific combinations of parent and youth monitoring behaviors may be protective against problem behavior and little is known about how effective parental monitoring changes during early adolescence. This longitudinal study uses latent transition analysis (LTA) to (1) identify emergent patterns of monitoring used in families during middle school; (2) investigate the stability of these patterns from Grade 6-8, and (3) explore how youth substance use relates to changes in monitoring patterns.

Methods: Using a sample of 536 rural youth and their mothers, we fit a series of LTA models using parent and youth reports of the following monitoring behaviors: parent active efforts to monitor (where parents ask youth for information and set rules), parental supervision of youth (where parents observe youth activities), parental knowledge of youth activities (what parents know about the whereabouts and activities of youth), youth disclosure of information (what information youth share with their parents) and parent-youth communication. Each measure was coded “high” or “low.” We investigated if changes in these monitoring patterns were associated with substance use by introducing covariates into the LTA model.

Results: The model suggested that the following six patterns represent the data: High Monitors (families were likely to report high levels of all monitoring behaviors), Communication-Reliant (families were likely to use high levels of all strategies except supervision), Supervision-Reliant (a high likelihood of using high amounts of supervision but a low or average likelihood of using all other monitoring strategies), Over-Estimators (youth reported a low probability of using all monitoring behaviors but mothers a high probability), Under-Estimators (mothers reported a low probability of using monitoring behaviors but youth a high probability), Low-Monitors (families reported they are unlikely to use high levels of all monitoring behaviors). Low Monitors were very stable across time; 98% of dyads in this status in Grade 6 remained in Grade 8. The initiation of alcohol use, smoking, and marijuana significantly predicted changes between monitoring patterns, and increased the odds of transitions into the Low Monitors from other patterns (relative to a reference group). Substance use initiation decreased the odds of transitions from the High Monitors to Communication-Reliant.

Implications: This study sheds light on how patterns of monitoring behaviors may change over the adolescent period and how these changes relate to substance use. Most changes in monitoring over middle school reflect reductions in monitoring strategies. Reductions in supervision only were not linked to problem behavior. However, reductions that included declines in communication, knowledge, and disclosure may be associated with increased risk of youth substance use. Many interventions encourage parents to maintain high amounts of control and solicit information from youth (Dishion et al., 2003). Our study suggests that maintaining high levels of communication and knowledge may be also be important in preventing substance use during the middle school period.

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