Parental Influence on Substance Use in Adolescent Social Networks


We’ve written before about the impact that parents can make on the risks that their children face and their health decisions.

This new research from the US suggests that parents, and mothers in particular, can play an important part beyond the protection they give their own children.

The researchers suggest that authoritative mothers can not only affect their children, but also have a protective effect on the friends of their children.

They report:

If an adolescent had a friend whose mother was authoritative, that adolescent was 40% (95% CI, 12%-58%) less likely to drink to the point of drunkenness, 38% (95% CI, 5%-59%) less likely to binge drink, 39% (95% CI, 12%-58%) less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 43% (95% CI, 1%-67%) less likely to use marijuana than an adolescent whose friend’s mother was neglectful, controlling for the parenting style of the adolescent’s own mother, school-level fixed effects, and demographics. These results were only partially mediated by peer substance use.

via Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The characteristics that are associated with authoritative parenting are that they:

  • Listen to their children
  • Encourage independence
  • Place limits, consequences and expectations on their children’s behaviour and administer fair and consistent discipline
  • Are nurturing and express warmth to, and about, their children
  • Encourage their children to express their opinions
  • Encourage their children to discuss options in their lives

What strikes me about this research is that it fits with other studies that show that the close relationships between adolescents – whether that is through parents, friends or romantic partners – all play a strong part in determining the norms of their friendship groups when it comes to drug and alcohol use.

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