U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Instrumental Support from Parents and Substance Use During the Transition to Adulthood

NCJ Number
Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: 2020 Pages: 477-498
Date Published
22 pages

Since it is unclear whether instrumental support from parents during their children’s emerging adulthood is protective or enables young adults’ binge drinking and drug use, the current study examined this issue using four waves of panel data from the Pathways to Desistance Study.


Instrumental support from parents can be a protective factor in the lives of children and adolescents—one that serves to reduce the risks of drug and alcohol use; however, the link between instrumental support from parents and substance use has seldom been explored in emerging adulthood. In addressing this issue, the current study estimated multilevel models to examine the relationship between parental instrumental support (providing living expenses, loaning money, providing transportation, and shopping/cleaning/doing laundry) and two forms of substance use (binge drinking and illicit drug use) during the transition to adulthood (N = 1,137 individuals; 3,288 person-waves). The findings indicate that instrumental support from parents is unrelated to changes in binge drinking or illicit drug use during emerging adulthood. This association was null regardless of the type of instrumental support provided, or how instrumental support was measured. Instrumental support also had no impact on substance use for individuals with prior histories of drug and alcohol use. The results raise questions about the salience of instrumental support from parents during emerging adulthood and instead suggest that parental support may matter most during earlier stages of the life course. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020