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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The importance of age composition of 12-step meetings as a moderating factor in the relation between young adults’ 12-step participation and abstinence

Participation in 12-step mutual help organizations (MHO) is a common continuing care recommendation for adults; however, little is known about the effects of MHO participation among young adults (i.e., ages 18–25 years) for whom the typically older age composition at meetings may serve as a barrier to engagement and benefits. This study examined whether the age composition of 12-step meetings moderated the recovery benefits derived from attending MHOs.

Young adults (n=302; 18–24 years; 26% female; 94% White) enrolled in a naturalistic study of residential treatment effectiveness were assessed at intake, and 3, 6, and 12 months later on 12-step attendance, age composition of attended 12-step groups, and treatment outcome (Percent Days Abstinent [PDA]). Hierarchical linear models (HLM) tested the moderating effect of age composition on PDA concurrently and in lagged models controlling for confounds.

A significant three-way interaction between attendance, age composition, and time was detected in the concurrent (p=0.002), but not lagged, model (b=0.38, p=0.46). Specifically, a similar age composition was helpful early post-treatment among low 12-step attendees, but became detrimental over time.

Treatment and other referral agencies might enhance the likelihood of successful remission and recovery among young adults by locating and initially linking such individuals to age appropriate groups. Once engaged, however, it may be prudent to encourage gradual integration into the broader mixed-age range of 12-step meetings, wherein it is possible that older members may provide the depth and length of sober experience needed to carry young adults forward into long-term recovery.

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