Introduction: Smoking experimentation represents transient risk taking for some youth, whereas for others, it is the onset of a chronic smoking trajectory. However, distinguishing these groups during the experimentation phase has proved challenging. We theorized that variations in parent and teen discourse about smoking might be informative for characterizing this heterogeneity. However, standardized methods for direct assessments of these family processes have been lacking. Methods: We examined the predictive utility of directly observed facets of smoking-specific communication for predicting persistence of teen smoking experimentation using a novel method, the Family Talk About Smoking (FTAS) paradigm. The FTAS was tested in a sample of 344 teens with a history of smoking experimentation during interactions with their mothers and fathers. Level of disapproval, smoking expectancies, elaboration of consequences, and quality of personal disclosure were coded during videotaped parent-teen discussions about smoking. Results: Patterns of observed smoking-specific communication varied by teen and parent smoking status. Predictive validity of the FTAS for teen persistent experimentation was demonstrated, net effects of reported smoking-specific socialization, general quality of communication, and parental smoking status. Teen smoking expectancies, disclosure, and disapproval predicted teen persistent experimentation with some differences based on whether interactions were with mothers or fathers. Prediction of persistent experimentation by observed maternal disclosure and elaboration of consequences was moderated by maternal smoking status. Conclusions: Direct observations show promise for generating detailed characterization of individual differences in patterns of family communication about smoking. Implications for targeted prevention and future research are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health