Worried About Your Kids’ Future Substance Abuse? Get Involved in Their Life

Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers, say the philosophers. Besides providing the children with nurturing environments, parents teach their kids moral values and social etiquette.

Now a new study suggests that parents’ role is not limited to nurturing the kids, instead they have the potential to prevent substance abuse in kids.

Adolescence is a time when the chances are high that young kid might fall prey to alcohol, drug or substance abuse, but parents could cut that risk by maintaining a healthy and open relationship with their children, suggests a new study, led by Thomas Schofield, from Iowa State University in the US.

“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,” said Schofield.

“Parents who know what’s going on with their children and their friends can minimize the impact of both pathways,” he added.

For their study, Schofield along with Rand Conger and Richard Robins, from the University of California, Davis, included about 675 children, mainly from Mexican families because Latinos are known to be at greater risk of substance abuse.

The research team observed the study children interacting with their parents during the first phase of the study in 5th grade and then again in 7th grade. A father and mother’s interactions with their children were separately video-recorded.

After observing the video-recorded interactions, Schofield and colleagues discovered that kids who had mingled with bad company two years earlier were obviously more likely to report current or intended future substance use. However, this risk of alcohol, tobacco and drug use disappeared for those whose parents intervened actively in their children’s lives previously.

“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,” said Schofield. “The relationship is what the parent made it, and without that scaffolding a lot of parents struggle.”

The take home message from the findings is that if any parent is concerned about the risky behaviours their kids might indulge in future, it’s best to start creating a trusting bond with the children right from the preadolescence and early adolescence time. “It’s just the best time to get kids on board with collaborating, communicating with their parents and creating that relationship earlier,” Schofield concluded.

The study findings were published this December in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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