An empirically derived typology of parents of adolescent substance abusers

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Margaret Crosbie-Burnett - Committee Chair


The existence of subtypes of parents of adolescent substance abusers was examined in a clinically referred sample of 224 primarily urban, African-American mothers and male adolescents. Cluster analysis revealed two clusters of parents who differed in terms of self-reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, and hostility, with parents in the smaller cluster (n = 37; Higher Symptomatology) reporting markedly higher levels of symptoms than those in the larger cluster (n = 180; Lower Symptomatology). The two clusters also differed in terms of alcohol use severity, with parents in the Higher Symptomatology cluster reporting more severe problems with alcohol than those in the Lower Symptomatology cluster. The two clusters appeared to be similar in terms of parenting style and frequency of past month drug use.The two parent subtypes were then compared in terms of their adolescents' substance use frequency, involvement with substances, age of substance use onset, and internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. Results indicated that in comparison with the Lower Symptomatology group, parents in the Higher Symptomatology group reported that their adolescents exhibited more severe internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Additionally, adolescents with parents in the Higher Symptomatology cluster reported that they began using marijuana at a later age than those with parents in the Lower Symptomatology cluster. No differences between the two parent clusters were found on adolescent frequency of substance use, involvement with substances, or adolescent-reported internalizing or externalizing behavioral problems.Finally, a number of demographic and background variables were examined for their ability to predict parental cluster membership. Findings indicated that parents who reported an absence of a second functional parent in the adolescent's life and a family history of drug problems were significantly more likely to be members of the Higher Symptomatology group. Parents in the Higher Symptomatology group were also more likely to report that they received public assistance and that there was a family history of alcohol problems, with both of these findings approaching levels of statistical significance. Interpretations and implications of the results are discussed, as well-as directions for future research.


Black Studies; Psychology, Social; Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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