I’ve been thinking recently that we ought to be much clearer that relationships should be a much more central part of drug education – perhaps a re-brand to Drugs Alcohol and Relationships Education (DARE), or perhaps not.
In any case we know that peer relationships are a critical factor in young people’s lives and in whether they are likely to use substances. It’s one of the reasons many of us argue for personal, social and health education (PSHE) should be thought about as a whole rather than its constituent parts.
This piece of research from the US looks at a group of 184 young people who were ‘followed’ between the ages of 13 to 23, along with parents, peers, and romantic partners.
What they seem to have found is that those teenagers who struggled to create some level of autonomy and independence within their peer group – such as being able to resist shoplifting or vandalism – were at higher risk for substance misuse as young adults. Conversely those who were able to think for themselves seemed to be able to resist negative peer pressure better and had fewer substance misuse problems later.
The researchers argue:
“Teaching teens how to stand up for themselves in ways that preserve and deepen relationships — to become their own persons while still connecting to others — is a core task of social development that parents, teachers, and others can all work to promote.”
There’s an interesting write-up with more detail over at Science Daily.