The present study utilized longitudinal data from a high-risk community sample (n=254, 52.8% female, 47.2% children of alcoholics, 74% non-Hispanic Caucasian) to test questions concerning the effects of genetic risk, parental knowledge, and peer substance use on emerging adult substance use disorders (SUDs). Specifically, this study examined whether parental knowledge and peer substance use mediated the effects of parent alcohol use disorder (AUD) and genetic risk for behavioral undercontrol on SUD. The current study also examined whether genetic risk moderated effects of parental knowledge and peer substance use on risk for SUD. Finally, this study examined these questions over and above a genetic "control" which explained a large proportion of variance in the outcome, thereby providing a stricter test of environmental influences.
Analyses were performed in a path analysis framework. To test these research questions, the current study employed two polygenic risk scores. The first, a theory-based score, was formed using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from receptor systems implicated in the amplification of positive effects in the presence of new/exciting stimuli and/or pleasure derived from using substances. The second, an empirically-based score, was formed using a data-driven approach that explained a large amount of variance in SUDs. Together, these scores allowed the present study to test explanations for the relations among parent AUD, parental knowledge, peer substance use, and SUDs.
Results of the current study found that having parents with less knowledge or an AUD conferred greater risk for SUDs, but only for those at higher genetic risk for behavioral undercontrol. The current study replicated research findings suggesting that peer substance use mediated the effect of parental AUD on SUD. However, it adds to this literature by suggesting that some mechanism other than increased behavioral undercontrol explains relations among parental AUD, peer substance use, and emerging adult SUD. Taken together, these findings indicate that children of parents with AUDs comprise a particularly risky group, although likelihood of SUD within this group is not uniform. These findings also suggest that some of the most important environmental risk factors for SUDs exert effects that vary across level of genetic propensity.
- Parent and peer influences on emerging adult substance use disorder: a genetically informed study