7 December 2006

Step parents and family conflict can push teenagers to cannabis abuse and dependence.

University of Queensland research shows that teenagers who live with a step parent and are in an unhappy family are more likely to develop serious drug dependencies than teens who live with their biological parents or who have happily married parents.

Children who lived with a step father were more likely to abuse cannabis than those living with single mums.

Financially poor mothers and those who were under 20 years of age when their child was born, were more likely to report cannabis use disorders than mothers who had a tertiary education.

And children who had smoked cigarettes by age 14 were more likely to report cannabis abuse or dependence as young adults.

“Our results show that living in non-intact step-father families or families experiencing conflict between the adults (regardless of their marital status) during adolescence has a strong relationship with cannabis use disorders developing by early adulthood,” the report said.

The findings come from studying 2303 young adults and their families from birth to 21 years of age in Brisbane.

Lead researcher Dr Reza Hayatbakhsh, from UQ’s School of Population Health, said more research was needed to explain the link between marital problems and child cannabis use.

He suspected some of the pathways could be inadequate parenting style, parent-child interaction and child problem behaviours.

The teenagers in the study have been taking part in the Mater-UQ Study of Pregnancy —one of the world`s longest running health studies.

The Mater Study was started at UQ in 1981 as a health and social study of 7223 pregnant women.
Researchers continue to extract new information about social, emotional and medical issues as the families grow.

The study results are published in the December edition of the British journal Addiction.

The paper was co-written with UQ`s Mater Study founder, Professor Jake Najman and fellow UQ Population Health researchers Professor Konrad Jamrozik, Dr Abdullah Mamun and Dr Rosa Alati.

MEDIA: Dr Hayatbakhsh (0433 278 042, 3365 5456, m.hayatbakhsh@sph.uq.edu.au) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (3365 2619)