Pavarin RM, Emiliani F, Passini S, Mameli C, Palareti L. Risky consumption, reasons for use, migratory status and normalization: the results of an Italian study on minors aged between 13 and 16. Inter J of Migration, Health and Social Care, 12(4): 264-77

Pubblicato il 13/04/2017

The purpose of this paper is to describe the relationship between migratory status, the use of legal and illegal psychoactive substances and psychological disorders perceived in a sample of minors.

A transversal multicentre study was carried out with interviews with young people aged 13-16 years recruited from middle and high schools in Italy.

The results show the implementation of a process of normalization in terms of the presence of legal and illegal psychoactive substances in the living contexts of the minors, of their widespread early use and of a substantial indifferentiation in the reasons for use (e.g. pleasure, curiosity, fun). Youths born in Italy with at least one non-native parent are noteworthy for an elevated prevalence of perceived psychological disorders and for particular lifestyles linked to the use of marijuana, alcohol abuse and the intensive consumption of tobacco. Second-generation minors show symptoms of psychological malaise, anxiety and depression before which the use of substances appears to realize a particular form of self-cure.

This study presents some objective limits that indicate prudence in generalizing the results: only those who obtained consent from their parents were interviewed and the information communicated in the interviews could have been influenced by various factors, including the situation and the location. The authors used a standard definition of binge-drinking (Valencia-Martín et al., 2008). Actually, different criteria (i.e. number of drinks, time of consumption, etc.) and formulations of the question are used in different surveys, showing that there is as yet no consensus definition of binge-drinking. Nevertheless, the term has become somewhat confusing as it is often used as a synonym of drunkenness, making cross-cultural comparisons difficult (Beccaria et al., 2014). These are aspects that limit the generalizability of the results to the interviews alone and do not allow for prevalence estimates. Nevertheless, the results offer useful indications for future prevention projects specifically oriented to early adolescence.

The results of the study, on the one hand, document the growing use of legal and illegal proactive substances among minors and the relative cultural trend in this particular age band, testified to by the high number of those who have been present in situations of consumption to whom the substances were offered; on the other, they evidence a subpopulation of youths born in Italy with at least one non-native parent (i.e. second generation of immigrants). These youths stand out for an elevated prevalence of perceived psychological disorders and for their particular lifestyles connected to the use of marijuana, alcohol abuse and the intensive consumption of alcohol. This is also the group with the highest percentage of mothers alone in the family.

A group of adolescents living in a monoparental family, that is, with the mother alone emerges, and as the literature has shown, family structure and poverty are linked (Landale et al., 2011; Svensson and Hagquist, 2009). In fact, such mothers, even those with a high level of education, are mostly unemployed. Adolescents with a single parent often not only face resource deficits but also other risk factors, such as high family stress, inadequate supervision, multiple family transitions and frequent residential moves. Specifically, these second-generation adolescents are female and they manifest sensation-seeking behaviours, but without drug abuse.

The results of the study show new and little-known aspects of the multicultural Italian society that is changing profoundly that should be explored in more detail by targeted research that also focussed on structural factors relatable to specific social positions. In this framework, a particular subgroup, i.e. the second-generation minors, shows symptoms of psychic malaise, anxiety and depression in terms of which substance use seems to realize a form of self-cure