OBJECTIVE:

Inadequate parent supervision during the early adolescent years forecasts a host of conduct problems, including illicit alcohol consumption. Early pubertal maturation may exacerbate problems, because girls alienated from same-age peers seek the company of older, more mature youth. The current study examines overtime associations between parent autonomy granting and adolescent alcohol abuse during a developmental period when alcohol consumption becomes increasingly normative, to determine if early maturing girls are at special risk for problems arising from a lack of parent supervision.

METHODS:

At annual intervals for 4 consecutive years, a community sample of 957 Swedish girls completed surveys beginning in the first year of secondary school (approximate age: 13 years) describing rates of alcohol intoxication and perceptions of parent autonomy granting. Participants also reported age at menarche.

RESULTS:

Multiple-group parallel process growth curve models revealed that early pubertal maturation exacerbated the risk associated with premature autonomy granting: Alcohol intoxication rates increased 3 times faster for early maturing girls with the greatest autonomy than they did for early maturing girls with the least autonomy. Child-driven effects were also found such that higher initial levels of alcohol abuse predicted greater increases in autonomy granting as parent supervision over children engaged in illicit drinking waned.

CONCLUSIONS:

Early maturing girls are at elevated risk for physical and psychological adjustment difficulties. The etiology of escalating problems with alcohol can be traced, in part, to a relative absence of parent supervision during a time when peer interactions assume special significance.

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