Childhood adversity within adolescent friendship groups: Implications for subsequent substance use disorders

Thursday, 24 October, 2019 - 11:10 to 11:20
Networking zone 3 (N3)



Research consistently demonstrates that childhood adversity is associated with an increased risk of subsequent health risk behaviors, e.g. severe alcohol and illicit drug use. Adversity experienced in early childhood related to parental socioeconomic problems may become particularly salient during adolescence, an important period during which youth gain agency and peers’ influence strengthens. Adolescents from families with socioeconomic problems may form friendships with peers with whom such experiences are shared, or with more privileged peers. Importantly, the composition of childhood adversity within friendship groups may explain long-term health risk behaviors, related to severe use of alcohol and drugs.


The objective of this paper is to examine the association between childhood adversity and severe alcohol or illicit drug use, and explore the role of adolescent friendships on this association.

Data & Methods

We will estimate Cox proportional hazard models based on a Swedish cohort (the Stockholm Birth Cohort Multigenerational Study) born in 1953 (n=14,562). Childhood adversity (ages 0-12) is identified via six indicators of household socioeconomic inequality: social assistance, single-parent household, overcrowding, criminality, psychiatric disorder, and alcohol abuse. Friendships are identified from sociometric data collected in the school class setting (age 13). The follow up of severe alcohol and drug use disorders is derived from inpatient register information (ages 19-63).

Expected Results & Conclusions

We expect alcohol and illicit drug use disorders to be more common among individuals who experienced socioeconomic adversity in childhood, but to a lesser extent if their adolescent friends were more privileged. The study will contribute knowledge regarding the long-term role of adolescent friendships among those who experienced socioeconomic problems in childhood, and may provide insights regarding programming efforts to prevent addiction to substances and better support at-risk children, adolescents, and adults.




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