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PURPOSE: Substance use is common, heritable, and associated with negative outcomes in emerging adults. Previous work suggests that parenting styles are associated with substance use outcomes. Emotion regulation and prosocial tendencies, such as civic efficacy and engagement with community or school extracurricular activities, are associated with lower levels of substance use and may represent mechanisms of the influence of parenting styles on substance use. The current study examines whether the association between parenting styles and substance use is mediated by emotion regulation and prosocial tendencies in a large sample of emerging adult college students

METHODS: Subjects were drawn from a longitudinal study of behavioral and emotional health at a large, urban university in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region (n=755). Parenting styles, emotion regulation, prosocial tendencies, family members’ problems with alcohol or other drugs, and recent use of alcohol, cannabis, stimulants, cocaine, and opioids were assessed via self-report. Structural equation modelling was used to examine the mediated association between parenting styles and polysubstance use through emotion regulation and prosocial behavior after adjusting for heritable familial risk. All analyses controlled for age, sex, and race/ethnicity

RESULTS: Parenting style marked by high involvement, low autonomy-granting, and low support for emotion expression predicted lower emotion regulation (=-0.398 [-0.559, -0.237]). Emotion regulation predicted greater prosocial tendencies (=0.214 [0.019, 0.408]). Prosocial tendencies predicted lower polysubstance use (=-0.149, [-0.251, -0.047]). Parenting style did not predict prosocial tendencies directly (=-0.026 [-0.176, 0.124]) and emotion regulation did not predict polysubstance use directly (=0.045 [-0.076, 0.167]). A significant indirect effect was identified, such that parenting style predicts emotion regulation, emotion regulation predicts prosocial tendencies, and prosocial tendencies predicts polysubstance use (=0.013 [0.001, 0.037]).

CONCLUSION: Parenting styles influence substance use outcomes in emerging adulthood via a mediated pathway through emotion regulation and prosocial tendencies. Encouraging parenting styles marked by autonomy-granting and support for emotion expression early in development may improve a constellation of outcomes throughout development.

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Developmental Psychology | Psychology

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VCU Graduate Research Posters

Emotion Regulation and Prosocial Tendencies Mediate the Association between Parenting Styles and Later Substance Use