A comparison of family patterns among Hispanic adolescent drug-using and non-drug-using clinical populations

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Blaine Fowers, Committee Chair


Recent literature examining the role of family patterns in the initiation and maintenance of adolescent drug use suggests that specific family patterns such as low cohesion, high conflict, problems in family communication, and maladaptive family structures are characteristic of families with an adolescent drug user. However, these studies utilized non-drug using, non-clinical level adolescents, primarily found in high school settings, as comparisons for the drug using sample. Therefore, it is difficult to discern whether the family patterns found to be associated with drug use are specific to drug use or rather, are descriptive of clinical families in general. To examine this further, this study conducted comparisons on a matched subsample of 31 Hispanic clinical families with a drug using adolescent and 31 Hispanic clinical families in which the adolescent was not using drugs, but had been identified as displaying behavioral problems. Post hoc analyses were also conducted on the whole sample of 97 participants from which the matched sample was taken. The independent variable was whether or not the adolescent used drugs as measured by self report, urine and hair analyses. The dependent variables included cohesion, conflict, expressiveness, and control as measured by the Family Environment Scale; open family communication and problems in family communication as measured by the Parent Adolescent Communication Form; and structural family functioning as measured by the Structural Family Systems Rating Scale. The results on the matched sample indicated that significant differences did not exist between clinical level adolescent drug using and adolescent non-drug using families in the assessed domains, with the exception of expressiveness. Expressiveness was found to be higher in the drug using group than in the non-drug using group as perceived by the adolescents' mothers. The results of the post hoc analyses conducted on the larger sample indicated that adolescents who engage in drug use perceive more cohesion and less control in their families than adolescents who do not engage in drug use. Furthermore, mothers of the drug using adolescents perceive more open communication to exist in their families than do mothers of the non-drug using adolescents in the larger sample. Thus, it appears that the family patterns examined are more descriptive of clinical level, behavior problem adolescents and their families, regardless of drug use. The findings suggest that family oriented interventions should target similar family patterns with behavior problem youth and drug using youth and their families.


Education, Guidance and Counseling; Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Link to Full Text