Although interparental conflict (IPC) has been linked directly and indirectly (via adolescents' appraisals) with a wide range of adolescent outcomes, little is known about the implications of IPC and related adolescent threat appraisals for substance use. Drawing on the cognitive-contextual framework, we test competing hypotheses about how IPC may impact adolescent substance use outcomes, specifically testing whether (a) threat appraisals are directly related to escalation in alcohol and tobacco use over adolescence, or (b) threat appraisals are indirectly associated with substance use through their impact on adolescent internalizing problems. Family data from 768 2-caregiver families were analyzed for this study. Adolescents (53% female) were followed on 7 occasions starting in the fall of 6th grade (mean age = 11.3 years) through the spring of 11th grade. IPC and family demographic data were collected from parents. Youth provided data on their appraisals of conflict, internalizing problems, and substance use. Using longitudinal growth curve models, findings supported threat appraisals as a direct risk factor for escalating cigarette use, but not escalating alcohol use, during adolescence. In the alcohol trajectory model, IPC was a direct predictor of increases in alcohol use over time. These findings indicate that high levels of threat appraisals are a specific and direct risk for greater increases in cigarette use over the course of adolescence and that IPC confers risk for increasing rates of alcohol use over adolescence.
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