Talk the Talk


Keeping a kid off of drugs may be easier than you think.

Original Source:

Parents may often believe that what they say to their teenager goes in one ear and right out the other, but a study published this year in Addictive Behaviors actually found that parents who openly and verbally disapprove of drugs have teens who are less likely to fall prey to substance abuse.

Authoritative parents–defined by the study as being both “warm” and “in control”–had children less who were 57 percent less likely to get drunk and 43 percent less likely to use tobacco.

Oddly enough, the “authoritative parent” effect also seemed to extend to other people’s children, as these parents exerted a similar–albeit lesser–effect on their children’s friends. Simply being friends with the child of an authoritative parent was associated with a 40% decreased incidence of drunkenness, 39% decreased incidence of cigarette smoking, and 43% decreased incidence of marijuana use.

Based on these results, the study’s authors asserted that one method of minimizing teenaged drug abuse could be as simple as increasing parental disapproval–provided that disapproval is delivered in authoritative (as opposed to authoritarian) fashion. Although both authoritative and authoritarian parents exert high control over their children, only authoritative parents are associated with “high warmth,” whereas authoritarian control is a cold and domineering sort of control.

Parents in the categories of “permissive” or “uninvolved” may see much higher likelihood of substance abuse by their children. Permissive parents are warm, but often so accepting that children are more willing to experiment with substance abuse. In contrast, uninvolved parents simply exhibit neither warmth nor high levels of concern for their children’s behavior, leading to children who essentially raise themselves.

Children of uninvolved parents may turn to substance abuse to find “a drug of one kind or another that at least temporarily alleviates that feeling of emptiness and hunger inside,” according to John Bachman, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist at the El Dorado Community Health Center in Placerville, CA.

Parents who worry that their relationship with a child may be damaged should begin attempting to rebuild that relationship with honesty, affection, and compassion. School, community, and private counseling services may be instrumental in helping parents repair a broken relationship. Bachman asserts that “offering education on parenting can bolster parenting competence, which in turn results in a wide variety of improved outcomes for adolescents.”