Posts Tagged ‘ teen drug use ’

“Partners In Crime”: When Sibs Get In Trouble Together

Monday, November 25th, 2013

When discussing the 4 types of sibling relationships, the unique profile of siblings who have high levels of both positivity and negativity in their relationship was flagged. Why is this group particularly salient to researchers who study siblings? Because they are more likely to get in trouble – together. 

The idea was formalized decades ago by the late Dr. David Rowe. He was studying twins and examining their similarity for delinquent behavior during the teen years. He found that twins were very much alike in this regard – if one twin was getting into trouble, the other twin was likely to do so as well. But the key observation was that this similarity was not due to genetics – something the twin design gets at by comparing identical and fraternal twins. Similarity for DNA didn’t matter much. What mattered was how much time the twins spent together, and if they had common friends.

Now of course just spending time together with a sibling doesn’t promote delinquency. Over the years, research has shown that the combination of both high positivity – hanging out, having fun, having common friends – and high negativity – fighting, arguing – signals the possibility of rule breaking behavior in the teen years. Observational research shows how this can happen.  These sibs end up laughing and fighting at the same time – and they end up enjoying and reinforcing each other’s negative behaviors (one hits, the other laughs, hits back, they laugh). Getting into trouble becomes fun. Other studies show how this becomes a mechanism by which an older sibling introduces a younger sibling to substances at very early ages – ages which are problematic. These influences are most prominent when sibs are closer in age (typically within a few years) – but the principle applies to both brothers and sisters (so it’s not just limited to boys).

So what’s a parent to do? How do you know if what’s going on is just part of the complex sib relationship – or the foundation for legal difficulties in the teen years? A few things to keep in mind. First, maintain good limit setting and monitoring – sibs can join forces and undermine parental efforts. Second, don’t let the negative get out of hand in the early years. Just because it’s normative for sibs to argue and fight now and then doesn’t mean it should define their relationship – it becomes habit and carries over to other social relationships. Third, keep an eye on what the older sib is introducing to the younger sib – no 12-year-old should be exposed to drinking or substances.

While sibling relationship features don’t guarantee developmental pathways, having insight into the ways in which the sibling bond can lead to problem behaviors.

What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order

Twins Fighting via


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Discouraging Teen Drug Use: Why Limit Setting Matters More Than Monitoring

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The conventional wisdom for many years is that monitoring and limit setting go hand in hand in terms of discouraging teen drug use. But based on some of the work I’ve been doing over the past few years, the importance of limit setting has dwarfed the role of monitoring. 

Let me explain. I’ve been studying teens who have run into trouble using drugs. Sometimes the trouble is medical in nature, other times legal. But the teen has been using some type of substance and having a bad consequence. When we talk to the parents, the reality is that they often know where their kids are —and also what they are probably doing. It’s not like they think their kids are at the library reading and they are shocked to find out that they were at a party, or at a friend’s house. Their monitoring is actually pretty spot on.

What the issue seems to be is that the kids do not have strict enough limits set. There is a lack of a consistent message that substances can get them into trouble, or can make them sick. They aren’t hearing that kids who drink and drive sometimes die. They don’t hear about a teen who had a few beers and lost their balance and fell off a balcony. There is, in many cases, an acceptance that this is just a normal part of life for the teen.

For many parents, experimenting with substances in the teen years may have been the rule rather than the exception. But we know more about teen substance use now than we did decades ago. We know that the adolescent brain may not tolerate substances well. We know that behaviors like binge drinking can lead to tragic outcomes. We know that kids who may be susceptible to addiction may get on that pathway as teens as early-onset is highly predictive of later problematic use.

So, I would contend that parents are, overall, pretty good about monitoring their kids, in the descriptive sense of knowing where they are and who they are with. What seems to matter greatly is providing kids with the cognitive and social tools to know what the appropriate limits are, and how to abide by them. Open, frank discussions—and some enforced limits—are essential tools for helping teens make good decisions when they are where you think they are, with who you think they are with.

Father and Son via

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Is Teen Drug Use Influenced By A Friend’s Parents?

Friday, October 26th, 2012

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.

Just Say No! via 

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