BackgroundFrance has one of the highest levels in Europe for early use of legal and illegal psychoactive substances. We investigate in this country disparities in adolescent problematic substance use by family living arrangement and parental socioeconomic group.MethodsThe data used were from the 2017 nationally-representative ESCAPAD survey, conducted among 17-year-olds in metropolitan France (N = 39,115 with 97% response rate). Prevalence ratios (PR) were estimated using modified Poisson regression.ResultsAdolescents living in non-intact families (44%) reported daily smoking, binge drinking and regular cannabis use (respectively ≥3 episodes and ≥ 10 uses in the last 30 days) much more frequently than those living in intact families (for example, the PR estimates for father single parent families were respectively 1.69 (1.55–1.84), 1.29 (1.14–1.45) and 2.31 (1.95–2.74)). Socioeconomic differences across types of families did little to explain the differential use. Distinctive socioeconomic patterns were found: a classical gradient for smoking (PR = 1.34 (1.22–1.47) for the most disadvantaged group relative to the most privileged); an inverse association for binge drinking (PR = 0.72 (0.64–0.81) for the most disadvantaged relative to the most privileged), and no significant variation for cannabis use.ConclusionOur findings shed light on the consistency of the excess use of adolescents from non-intact families and on the substance-specific nature of the association with parental socioeconomic group. Preventive approaches at the population level should be complemented by more targeted strategies.