Family Dynamics and Adolescent Addiction

In 2009, The American Journal of Family Therapy published research that investigated the relationship between family functioning and adolescent addiction. The research was conducted by Mimma Tafa and Roberto Baiocoo, both psychologists from the University of Rome.

The psychologists administered The Shorter Promis Questionnaire, a survey designed to assess addictive behaviors, to 252 students in central Italy. The questionnaires addressed a wide range of addictions, including, but not limited to, sex, gambling, drugs, video games, and shopping.

These students also received a questionnaire to take home to their parents. Of the 252 questionnaires sent out to families, a total of 222 were returned. These questionnaires did not assess addictive behaviors. Instead, the questionnaire was used to investigate the perception of cohesion and adaptability of a family.

Cohesion refers to the emotional bonds formed between family members. Low cohesion means that the emotional bonds between family members is weak, while high cohesion indicates the opposite. Adaptability refers to the overall flexibility of a family; the ability to change power structures, social roles, and relationship rules in response to stress or other challenges.

The study found that adolescents in families characterized by low cohesion and low adaptability were more likely to have problems with addictions than other adolescents.

“Therefore, as research confirms, good family relationships are important protective factors: adequate emotional sharing; high-flexability in rules; good levels of satisfaction of all family members contribute to adolescent’s well being by reducing adolescent risk and opportunity of dysfunctional behaviors such as a pathological addiction.”


Tafa, M. & Baiocco, R. (2009) Addictive behavior and family functioning during adolescence. The American Journal of Family Therapy, Vol 37: 388-395.