It takes a village to keep teens substance free

We know that friends can have a big influence over our teenagers. Now it’s been discovered that peer influence is so powerful, even friends’ parents can influence our own child’s alcohol or drug use.

The parenting qualities that count, according to researchers, is consistency in discipline and awareness of teenagers’ whereabouts.

Other parents influence your teen

Other parents can influence your teen. Image by krehault/Flickr

“Among friendship groups with ‘good parents’ there’s a synergistic effect – if your parents are consistent and aware of your whereabouts, and your friends’ parents are also consistent and aware of their (children’s) whereabouts, then you are less likely to use substances,” said Michael J. Cleveland, research assistant professor at the Prevention Research Center and the Methodology Center, Penn State.

“But if you belong to a friendship group whose parents are inconsistent, and your parents are consistent, you’re still more likely to use alcohol. The differences here are due to your friends’ parents, not yours.”

A study by Dr Cleveland and his colleagues show higher levels of parental knowledge and disciplinary consistency lead to a lower likelihood of substance use, and vice versa. Although these outcomes may be expected, the researchers believe this is the first study that shows the parenting style of other parents has a concrete and statistically significant impact on your own child’s outcomes.

“By acting together – the notion of ‘it takes a village’ – can actually result in better outcomes for adolescents.”

“The peer context is a very powerful influence,” said Dr Cleveland. “We’ve found in other studies that the peer aspect can overwhelm your own upbringing.”

So not only are parents be looking to other parents in relation to assessing their own child’s drinking or drug use, they are also in a position to influence other people’s children.

“I think that it empowers parents to know that not only can they have an influence on their own children, but they can also have a positive influence on their children’s friends as well,” said Cleveland. “And that by acting together – the notion of ‘it takes a village’ – can actually result in better outcomes for adolescents.”

The results of Professor Michael Cleveland’s study is published in the June issue of  Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs





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