Drug and Alcohol Predictors

Family relations, peer relations, and individual traits.

Drug and Alcohol Predictors

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While there are many factors that can impact the choice of adolescents to take part in drug and alcohol use, many of these factors can be categorized as relating to family relations, peer relations, and individual traits. An examination of these categories shows how many factors are intrinsically linked together to create predictors. There are common predictors of adolescent drug and alcohol use. Research shows that many of these predictors can be related directly to family, peer relations, and individual traits. The relation of these traits forms the strongest set of predictors for adolescent drug and alcohol use.

Family-related Predictors

One of the most significant factors for predicting drug and alcohol use in children is the family dynamic. Family dynamics refers to a set of behaviors that psychologists refer to as functional or dysfunctional. Depending upon whether the family dynamic is functional or dysfunctional will be a significant factor in determining adolescent drug and alcohol use.

Dysfunctional family dynamics are behaviors and practices that are characterized by factors such as conflict, misbehavior, neglect, abuse, or manipulation by adults (Neuharth, 1999). Some factors show higher propensities for being drug and alcohol predictors such as neglect and abuse. Children raised in these environments will often become apathetic and resentful in adolescence. These children often turn to negative peer-pressured activities such as drugs and alcohol use in order to find some level of acceptance outside the family (Neuharth, 1999).

The family dynamic of functionality has been documented. In functional families, in which children are exposed to positive parenting practices and are supported and encouraged; adolescents are much less prone to taking part in alcohol and drug use (Neuharth, 1999). For these reasons, family functionality is the largest predictor of adolescent drug and alcohol use.


Peer relations are another large predictor of alcohol and drug use. According to Berger (2008), peer relations fulfill specific needs of intimacy, companionship, and acceptance in adolescence. There are many risk factors related to peer relations such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Erdley, 2004).

Peer relations can be damaging or beneficial to adolescents. Adolescents become intensely self-aware and conscious of what other people are thinking of them (Berger, 2008). If peer relations are negative in nature, such as bullying or being made fun of, this can be extremely damaging to adolescents. In many cases, these negative relations will lead to behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. It should be noted that peer relations are intrinsically linked with family dynamics. If a child has experienced a positive and functional family dynamic, then he or she is much more likely to handle negative peer relations in a positive manner.

Individual Traits

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the concept of individual traits being a predictor of behavior. This controversy is rooted in the nature vs. nurture argument. According to Pinel (2011),

…all behavior is the product of interactions among three factors: (1) the organism’s genetic endowment, which is a product of its evolution; (2) its experience; and (3) its perception of the current situation (Pinel, 2011).

In contrast to this view, there are many personality psychologists that believe that particular traits and temperament can be linked with behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. The study of identical twins is very revealing with regard to traits and behaviors. Researchers have found that there is an 80–85% similarity between twins with regard to genetic traits such as intelligence and other developmental areas related to genetics (Pinel, 2011). Many studies have shown that twins share many behaviors such as alcoholism and drug dependency(Pinel, 2011).

But according to Thomas Bouchard, identical twins raised separately are about fifty percent identical which defies the common belief that twins are identical (Allen, 1998). This would seem to dictate that social influence has a very large impact on the development of behaviors and traits may not be a strong predictor. To further this argument, there may also be issues with researcher bias in the studying of twins. There seems to be a tendency to emphasize similarities:

When journalists first began interviewing Bouchard’s twins-raised-apart, they focused on the spectacularly similar pairs, like the Springer-Lewis twins. But those twins turned out to be outliers in the Minnesota study. Most of the other twins weren’t nearly as alike (Allen, 1998).

The literature is still unclear with regard to how genetics may influence behavior. For the time, character traits may not be the best predictor of drug and alcohol use in twins. What is clear is that family relations and peer relations are vital and significant predictors for drug and alcohol use in adolescence. These statistics have been repeatedly documented in the literature and form a basis for monitoring adolescent behavior and looking for warning signs.


Allen, A. (1998, January 11). The Mysteries of. Retrieved from The Washington Post Magazine: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/twins/twins1.htm

Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the life span (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Erdley, C. (2004). Finding a friend: children’s friendships are training grounds for adult relationships. Retrieved from http://scienceblog.com/community/older/2000/E/200004605.html

Neuharth, D. (1999). If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. DIANE Publishing Company.

Pinel J.P. (2011) Biopsychology, Eighth Edition,. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Pearson Education, Inc. pg. 23–25


Vincent Triola. Wed, Jan 06, 2021. Drug and Alcohol Predictors Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/drug-and-alcohol-predictors

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