This study examined whether a child’s self-disclosure to his/her parents of alcohol use predicted substance-related outcomes for young adults coming to a hospital emergency room with traumatic injuries.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals visit the emergency department (ED) every year, with many visits occurring following alcohol misuse. Parent–child relationship factors are associated with alcohol-related outcomes; for example, an offspring’s choice to self-disclose information about his/her life to parents, rather than parents actively soliciting this information, is associated with substance use; however, it is unclear whether self-disclosure uniquely predicts alcohol-related outcomes in a young adult ED sample. In addressing this issue, data were collected from young adults (age 18–30 years) visiting an ED for a traumatic injury (n = 79). Participants were about 24.4 years old, majority male (53.7 percent), and Caucasian (76 percent; 24 percent African-American). A bifactor model within a structural equation model tested unique effects of self-disclosure on age at first drink, propensity for risky drinking, and likelihood of consuming substances prior to ED visit, over and above parental solicitation and a general factor and gender. The study found that those who shared more information about their drinking with their caregivers in childhood reported having their first drink at an older age, a lower propensity for risky drinking, and a lower propensity to consume substances prior to their ED visit. These findings suggest that self-disclosure may be a unique risk factor in the initiation of alcohol use, development of problem use, and consequences following use. (publisher abstract modified)