All participants filled out questionnaires with adolescents and their mothers in separate rooms. The mothers questionnaire included question on topics such as parental monitoring habits, parental academic expectations, and on the nature and extent of drug-related activity and crime in the family neighborhood. The adolescents were asked questions on such topics as whether and to what extent they used drugs and whether and to what extent their friends used drugs.
The results of the study confirmed the results of prior studies in several significant respects. The principal finding of the study was that absentee fatherhood was a strong predictor of adolescent drug use in adolescent African-American males. Another important finding of the study was that this apparent effect did not apply to adolescent African-American females. Prior studies had determined that absentee fatherhood was a predictor of early drug and alcohol use as well as aggression and other forms of antisocial and criminal behavior among adolescents of European and Caucasian descent. Prior studies also revealed higher instances of teenage smoking among African-American adolescent girls. One of the most intriguing results was the apparent discrepancy between the results of similar studies on non-African-American adolescents in that the dependent variables were equally observed as between male and female adolescents. In this study, the absence of the father had virtually no effect on the behavior of the female adolescents.
Limitations and Implications for Further Study
The main limitation of the study was a function of the small sample size and the geographic homogeneity of the participants. Another limitation of the study was a function of the inherent limitations of correlational studies. That nature produced empirical data only of the correlation of independent and dependent variables without permitting further conclusions about the specific causative factors responsible for the observed data. The investigation of the individual causative elements would be a natural direction for further study. Another avenue for future study suggested by this study would be the variables specifically responsible for the very different results observed in connection with gender.
This study was important because it furthered understanding of the relationship between family structure and drug use among adolescents. Previous research had investigated smoking among African-American adolescents, and drug use among European-descent and Caucasian adolescents but comparatively little research had been conducted specifically on African-American adolescents. The most important findings were that among African-American adolescents, absentee fathers corresponded to adolescent drug use exclusively among male participants. The study strongly suggests the need for further research to explain that observed discrepancy, particularly in terms.