Youth who experience parental arrest for alcohol- or drug-related charges show more behavior problems

Elizabeth Johnson, Beth Planalp, and Julie Poehlmann recently published an analysis of data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (based on the Annual Curated Release 2.0, which includes baseline data for the full sample and was made available through an agreement with the National Data Archive of the National Institute of Mental Health).

■ The ABCD Study includes 11,500 youth aged 9-10 nationwide who are being followed yearly for 10 years

  • The ABCD study used school-based recruitment, resulting in a nationally representative sample
  • Data are being collected on factors influencing brain, cognitive, emotional, health development

● In the new analysis, data on parental arrests were derived from items pertaining to biological parents’ problems with alcohol or drug use; specifically, the participating parent was asked to indicate whether either the child’s biological mother or father ever experienced arrests or DUIs related to alcohol or drug use

● At the first wave of data collection, the analysis found that 12.5% of the youth had a parent who had been arrested because of issues related to drugs or alcohol

  • 75.2% of youth experienced the arrest of their father
  • 16.2% of youth experienced the arrest of their mother
  • 11.4% of youth experienced the arrest of both parents

Youth who experienced parental arrest exhibited higher levels of both internalizing and externalizing behaviors, especially when their mother had been arrested, compared to their peers and controlling for a number of other risk factors—which tended to co-occur with parental arrest

●It is unknown how many of the youth in the ABCD study witnessed their parent’s arrest, however, as those data were not collected in the first wave of the ABCD study.

For further reading: Johnson, E. I., Planalp, E. M., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2022). Parental arrest and child behavior: Differential role of executive functioning among racial subgroups. Journal of Child and Family Studies, February 7 2022, 1-14.