A fair amount of our thinking on protective factors that may help prevent drug and alcohol problems in teenage years has focused on the roles of good parenting, school attachment, and sports as a diversionary activity.
This piece of research from the US gives us a slightly more nuanced view.
The researchers make the distinction between protective factors which they describe as being ‘effective for those identified as high risk takers’ and promotive factors which are effective for all.
The results come from looking at responses from over 36,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 16.
The abstract of the paper says:
Although parental monitoring was associated with lower alcohol and marijuana use among all adolescents (i.e., promotive effect), these effects were strongest among the highest risk takers (i.e., protective effect) and females. School bonding was associated with lower levels of both alcohol and marijuana use among all groups of adolescents, but these promotive effects were weak.
However, the findings about being involved with sport is more complex. They found that participation was associated with higher levels of alcohol use among all males and younger girls who were not identified as risk takers. Sports was however a positive effect around cannabis use for older girls, particularly those most at risk of drug use.
Overall, these findings suggest that of the three mechanisms studied, parental monitoring emerged as the most promising entry point for substance use prevention and intervention across groups, particularly for females and high risk-taking adolescents.