Heavy drug-use among bad boys curbed by parental monitoring and peers

August 17, 2010

Aggressive and hyperactive boys with low parental monitoring are more likely to befriend deviant peers and become heavy drug users as teens, according to a new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. Yet the investigation by scientists from the Université de Montréal and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center found that bad boys can be protected from heavy substance use as teenagers if they are highly monitored and befriend good boys as children.

Parental monitoring was shown to have a protective effect on bad and reduce their affiliation with deviant peers, says first author, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a Université de Montréal psycho-education professor."Disruptive boys typically show a proneness to act aggressively and impulsively - these adolescents might need more external constraints from parents as compared to others who have stronger internal control."

Co-author Richard Tremblay, a Université de Montréal professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and psychology and a researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, says aggressive children are more inclined to misuse drugs than their non aggressive counterparts and this risk increases substantially if they also affiliate with deviant friends. "Deviant peers often affiliate with each other and mutually influence each other through deviancy training," says Dr. Tremblay, who is also founding director of Montreal's Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.

The study used data from a long-term investigation that followed children from low socioeconomic backgrounds and from kindergarten through adolescence. "Another finding of our study was that disruptive boys who were highly monitored - yet poorly attached to parents - were heavier ," continues Dr. Tremblay.

Conversely, says Dr. Fallu, "Well monitored disruptive boys are more prone to affiliate with conventional peers. When such boys affiliate with conventional peers, they might benefit from a positive socializing influence or conformity training."

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