Report: Parent Involvement Can Influence Teen Drug, Alcohol Use


Some parents believe that there is little they can do to control their teenage children, but new research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence says parents can have an effect on their kid’s lives by becoming more involved.

Rick Nauert reports for Psych Central that although adolescence is the time when many young people consider experimenting with drugs or alcohol, a new study found that parents can lower the risk factor simply by keeping a healthy and open relationship with their children.

The best start is developing a strong bond with a child before preadolescence or adolescence, and the lead author of the study and assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, Thomas Schofield, added that the group that a child has as friends is also critically significant.

If adolescents hang out with friends who are deviating from the norm, or if they seek out peers who make substance use simple, those kids are more likely to drink or use drugs. However, parents who are aware of what is going on in their children’s lives can decrease the influence.

“Parents don’t even have to be ‘super parents,’” explained Schofield in a statement. “As long as they’re at the 71st percentile, or getting a C- in parenting, both of these dangerous pathways to drug abuse go away.”

The researchers observed Latino parents interacting with their children to measure the effect of monitoring by parents. Latino families were chosen because they wanted to understand if cultural difference had an impact on the way parents behaved and what the outcomes would be.

Also, Latinos have a greater risk of using drugs or alcohol at a young age and have an increased probability of using and possibly abusing into adulthood. In the current study, Schofield and his colleagues observed children in fifth grade and again in seventh grade.

The study included 675 children and their parents. After adjusting for cultural beliefs and the child’s temperament, the most important part of the study was observing mothers and fathers independently interact with their children.

The research team watched the interactions with signs of good parent monitoring skills as their most critical focus. They used the CDC definition of “good parent” as their measurement, reports Ed Cara for Medical Daily, which included a:

“… parent’s ability to lay out positive expectations for their child; taking proactive steps to keep track of them; and establishing fair and consistent consequences for when they inevitably break the rules.”

Schofield added that research has shown that parents influence one another. The idea is for parents to be on the same page and share common beliefs about parenting.

Schofield and colleague Jennifer Weaver, at Boise State University, analyzed data from two-parent families who participated in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study on Early Child Care and Youth Development. They discovered that one of the skills needed to become a good parent is partner selection; being in agreement with a partner about parenting behavior should be a factor in deciding with whom to have children.