Abstract

Objective: This study aimed to determine the associations among paternal alcohol problems, separation, and educational attainment in European American and African American offspring and whether offspring early alcohol/tobacco/marijuana use influenced these associations. Method: Families with offspring ages 13–19 years at intake were selected from state birth records and screened by telephone to determine high-risk or low-risk status (with/without paternal heavy drinking). Families of men with two or more driving-under-the-influence offenses were added as a very-high-risk group. Data from 340 African American and 288 European American offspring who were not enrolled in school at their last interview were analyzed. Educational attainment was modeled as less than high school, high school only (reference category), and some college or higher. Separation was defined as offspring report of not having lived continuously in the same household with their biological father from birth to age 14. Analyses were stratified by race. Results: In European Americans, neither family risk status nor early alcohol/tobacco/marijuana use was associated with educational outcomes. However, paternal separation significantly elevated the likelihood of not completing high school in all models (relative risk ratios [RRRs] = 6.0– 8.1, p <.001). For African American offspring, likelihoods of high school noncompletion were elevated marginally for paternal separation in only one model, but significantly for early marijuana use (RRRs = 2.8– 3.2, p < .05). Very-high-risk status significantly reduced the likelihood of post-high school education in an adjusted model (RRR = 0.4, p < .05). Conclusions: High school noncompletion was significantly associated with paternal separation in European Americans and with early marijuana use in African American offspring. In addition, very-high-risk status reduced the likelihood of post-high school education in African American offspring only, suggesting that research with ethnically diverse samples yields important differences when examining outcomes of both separation and substance use on offspring education.

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