Washington | Parents, take note! Maintaining a healthy and open relationship with your teenaged children can prevent them from indulging in drug or alcohol abuse, a new study suggests.
Adolescence is a time when many children may consider experimenting with alcohol or drugs.
Researchers said that adolescents are more likely to drink or use drugs if they hang out with deviant friends or if they actively seek out peers to facilitate substance use.
Parents who know what’s going on with their children and their friends can minimise the impact of both pathways, the researchers said.
Lead author Thomas Schofield, from Iowa State University along with Rand Conger and Richard Robins, from the University of California, Davis, observed interactions between Latino parents and children to gauge the level and effects of parental monitoring.
They focused specifically on Latino families to better understand if cultural differences influenced parenting behaviours and outcomes. Latinos are also at greater risk to use drugs and alcohol at an early age, and have a higher probability of use and abuse over time, Schofield said.
The researchers observed children in fifth grade and again in seventh grade. Schofield said their data show that for many, this age range is a starting point or baseline for alcohol, tobacco and drug use.
It is also a time when parents may be caught off guard by changes in their child’s behaviour, if they do not have a strong foundation established.
Parents who haven’t been deliberately investing time during middle and late childhood to build the relationship with their child one that is very open, with lots of communication, respect and understanding all the scaffolding falls away when their child becomes an adolescent, Schofield said.
The relationship is what the parent made it, and without that scaffolding a lot of parents struggle, he said.
Preadolescence and early adolescence is not a particularly risky time; it’s just the best time to get kids on board with collaborating, communicating with their parents and creating that relationship earlier, he said.
Nearly 675 children were included in the study. Researchers observed mothers and fathers separately as they interacted with their children.
They also controlled for child temperament and cultural beliefs. This indicates that more than genetics is at play, and parents can make a difference in influencing their child’s behaviour, Schofield said.