Is Teen Drug Use Influenced By A Friend’s Parents?
A recent study of teens suggests that it is. Or put another way, even though you say “No”, it still might be influential that your teen’s friend’s parents don’t.
A team of researchers reported that teens’ substance use could be predicted from the parenting style of their friends. Teens whose friends’ parents were ‘authoritative’ (meaning they were affectionate yet set limits with their kids) had greatly reduced levels of substance use, as compared to teens whose friends’ parents were ‘neglectful’ (meaning they weren’t affectionate and set few limits with their kids). The effects held after accounting for the parenting style of the kids’ own parents and other possible confounding variables – suggesting some type of direct influence that was quite dramatic. For example, kids who had friends with authoritative parenting styles were:
38% less likely to binge drink
39% less likely to smoke cigarettes
43% less likely to smoke marijuana
Or another way to look at these data is to say the teen’s risk of substance use was much greater when the friend’s parents were ‘neglectful’.
Of course, there are typically some selection effects in these kinds of studies – kids often seek out friends who are similar to them in terms of interest in substance use. But that said, there is something to these findings. I’ve conducted studies in which teens carry around electronic diaries and indicate where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Without questions, kids who used substances were most likely to report doing so when they were with a friend, at the friend’s house … and the friend’s parents were not at home.
So, the take-home message is that it’s a good idea to know not only who your kid’s friends are, but also something about what happens when they are over their friend’s house – particularly with respect to the extent that the parents are around, and how they behave when they are there. And the best source of that is … your own kid. That’s why open communication is so important in the teen years.