The Role of Parents in Adolescent Substance Abuse
A variety of family factors have been linked to drug usage among adolescents. One of the strongest familial factors associated with adolescent drug use is living apart from parents. Drug usage is significantly higher among highly vulnerable adolescents who live with relatives other than parents or who are in foster care. It seems that the positive influences of parental communication, supervision, and support serve as protective factors that lessen the risk for substance abuse. Although adolescents who do not live with their parents are more susceptible to drug usage, those who develop meaningful relationships with other caring adults (e.g., grandparents, neighbors, or teachers) are less likely to initiate drug use than at-risk youths without such support (Delva, Wallace, & O'Malley, 2005).
Obviously, not all adolescents who live with parents are drug-free; in reality, the behaviors of many co-residential parents contribute to their adolescent children's drug usage. Adolescents are more likely to use substances when one or more members of the family use substances or when parents have a lenient attitude toward substance abuse (Bogenschneider, Wu, Raffaelli, & Tsay, 1998). For example, Hartman, Lessem, Hopfer, Crowley, and Stallings (2006) confirmed previous findings of the familial nature of alcohol abuse and dependence. They found that both adolescent alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are related to parental alcohol usage. Thus, adolescents need parents who are both physically and emotionally present and also do not present a model of drug abuse or dependency. Additionally, there are a number of things that parents might do to lessen the likelihood that their adolescent children will use drugs. Parental characteristics that have been shown to prevent adolescent drug abuse are authoritative parenting (Baumrind, 1996), parental monitoring (Barnes, Welte, & Hoffman, 2005) parental religiosity, and spending more quality time with adolescents (Barrett & Turner, 2005). Spending quality time with their adolescent children not only affords parents a greater opportunity to model appropriate use of substances, it also provides the emotional support adolescents need to make more responsible choices (Caputo, 2004). Another way in which close parent-adolescent relations serve as protective factors against substance abuse is that a close parent-adolescent relationship is linked to lower orientation to peers, which is in turn related to lower substance use (Bogenschneider et al., 1998).
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