Self-medication Hypothesis and Family Socialization Theory: Examining Independent and Common Mechanisms Responsible for Binge Drinking

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For many, binge drinking behaviors start early and become a persistent pattern of use throughout the lifespan. In an effort to strengthen understanding of etiology, this study considered the mechanisms from the self-medication hypothesis and family socialization theory. The goal was to identify whether emotional distress is a potential shared mechanism that accounts for the development of binge drinking in different developmental periods. This study used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) dataset to examine binge drinking across time for n = 9,421 participants ranging in age from 11 to 18 (M = 15.39, SD = 1.62) at Wave I and ranging from 24 to 32 (M = 28.09, SD = 1.61) at Wave IV of the study. Using an autoregressive cross-lagged model, I examined how parent-child closeness, depressive symptoms, and binge drinking were related over three developmental periods. In examining cross-sectional and longitudinal relations, depressive symptoms were significantly related to binge drinking more often than parent-child closeness; however, results indicated the self-medication model may primarily account for concurrent drinking behaviors rather than long-term. The family socialization theory was indicated to account for some variability above and beyond the self-medication hypothesis. No indirect association between binge drinking and the parent-child relationship was detected through depressive symptoms, failing to support a shared mechanism between the two theories. The results provide support for a multifaceted assessment process for substance using clients, and support the use of Multisystemic Family Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, and perhaps Attachment-Based Family Therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-305
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Adolescent Development
  • Binge Drinking
  • Self-medication
  • Social Learning
  • Time-varying Covariate Model


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