The Long Term Impact of Adolescent Risky Behaviors and Family Environment. E. Socioeconomic Status


Family socioeconomic status touches many aspects of an adolescent's life. The general idea that socioeconomic status has far-reaching influences can be seen in the sheer variety and number of studies in which it serves as a background factor. Socioeconomic status of family of origin can affect factors ranging from community or neighborhood characteristics to types of discipline used (Avenevoli, Sessa, and Steinberg, 1999).

The status attainment literature has focused on determining factors that impact achieving educational, occupational, and other socioeconomic success in youth and adulthood. Hill and Duncan (1987) found that parents' education, especially father's education, as a measure of socioeconomic status, plays an important part in children's educational attainment. However, Sewell and Shah (1967) provided evidence that even though the majority of lower class students did not show high levels of educational attainment, that some students managed to "make it." They also found that mother's education was a more important factor than father's education in predicting educational attainment for women from lower class origins.

More recently, Krohn, et al. (1997) found that being from a lower class family of origin was associated with precocious transitions. In their study, if the household was on welfare, under the poverty line, or if the household primary wage earner was unemployed, then the family was classified as lower class. For females, lower class status was related to dropping out of school, living independently early, and experiencing more precocious transitions. Lower class males were also more likely to drop out of school and have more precocious transitions. Later alcohol use was significantly negatively correlated with lower class for females.

Recent data from the youth module of the 1997 NHSDA reveal that household socioeconomic status as measured by family income is associated with adolescent substance use (2001, OAS). For adolescent past-year marijuana use, there does not appear to be much of an overall variation with household income. Examination of heavier marijuana use, though, shows a different pattern with socioeconomic status. Adolescents 12 to 17 years old from poorer households (incomes less than $20,000) were more likely than those from the wealthiest households (incomes $40,000 and greater) to have used marijuana at least 51 times in the past year (6.5 percent vs. 3.9 percent, respectively). Household income does not show an association with heavier alcohol use. It does, however, show a significant relationship with overall past-year alcohol use, with the higher an adolescent's family income, the higher the likelihood that an adolescent used alcohol. Consistent with this finding, Zucker and Harford (1983) found a positive relationship of teenage drinking with parental occupational prestige and education. The relationship between socioeconomic status and delinquency appears to work differently, with a negative correlation found between these two factors (see Hawkins, et al., 1992).

Jessor, et al. (1991) reported that socioeconomic variables related to a respondent's family of origin showed virtually no relationship to young adult problem behaviors. Some exceptions to this were the inverse relationship of mother's education with young adult women's past-month marijuana use in the College sample and the positive correlation of mother's education with men's past-month marijuana use and past 6-month intoxication in the High School sample. When young adult educational attainment was the dependent variable of interest, family socioeconomic measures showed significance more consistently. Father's education, father's occupational status, and family socioeconomic status were positively associated with young adult educational attainment in all samples except the College Study men. Mother's education was also found to have a positive correlation with young adult education in the two High School Study samples.