It takes a village to keep teens substance free

May 1, 2012

During high school the parents of teenagers' friends can have as much effect on the teens' substance use as their own parents, according to prevention researchers.

"Among friendship groups with 'good parents' there's a -- 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."

Cleveland and his colleagues report parenting behaviors and adolescents' substance-use behaviors to be significantly correlated in the "expected directions" in this month's issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Results show higher levels of parental knowledge and disciplinary consistency leading to a lower likelihood of substance use, whereas lower levels lead to a higher likelihood of substance use.

However if adolescents' parents are consistent and generally aware of their children's activities, but the parents of the children's friends are inconsistent and generally unaware of their own children's activities, the are more likely to use substances than if their friends' parents were more similar to their own parents.

"The peer context is a very powerful influence," said Cleveland. "We've found in other studies that the peer aspect can overwhelm your upbringing."

While long suspected to be the case, the researchers believe this to be the first study where parenting at the peer level proved to have a concrete and statistically significant impact on child outcomes.

The researchers surveyed 9,417 ninth-grade students during the spring semester, and then again the following spring semester. The students came from 27 different rural school districts in Pennsylvania and Iowa, all participating in the Promoting School-university-community Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) study. In ninth grade, the researchers asked the students to name five of their closest friends. The researchers identified social networks within the schools by matching up the mutually exclusive friendships. Overall, the researchers identified 897 different friendship groups, with an average of 10 to 11 students in each group.

At that time students also answered questions about their perceptions of how much their parents knew about where they were and who they were with. They were also asked about the consistency of their parents' discipline. In the tenth-grade follow-up, students responded to questions about their substance use habits, specifically their use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.

Behaviors of friends' parents influenced substance use even when taking into account the effects of the teens' own parents' behaviors and their friends' substance use, demonstrating the powerful effect of peers on adolescent behavior.

"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."

Explore further: Parents play a powerful role in predicting DUI

Related Stories

Parents play a powerful role in predicting DUI

September 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Sipping the occasional glass of wine may seem relatively harmless, and could even be beneficial to the drinker’s health. But for parents, even moderate drinking can result in one unintended consequence: ...

Extent of peer social networks influences onset of adolescent alcohol consumption

September 21, 2011
Most parents recognize that the influence of peers on their children's behavior is an undeniable fact. But, just how far do these influences reach? A study published in the September/October issue of Academic Pediatrics reports ...

Middle school teacher support lowers risk for early alcohol use

March 21, 2012
Anxiety, depression, stress and social support can predict early alcohol and illicit drug use in youth, according to a study from Carolyn McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children's Research Institute, and researchers from the University ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use amongst youth stable, but substance abuse admissions up

August 15, 2017
While marijuana use amongst youth remains stable, youth admission to substance abuse treatment facilities has increased, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Report reveals underground US haven for heroin, drug users

August 8, 2017
A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the United States for the past three years, a report reveals.

Regular energy drink use linked to later drug use among young adults

August 8, 2017
Could young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks be at risk for future substance use? A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol ...

Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows

August 2, 2017
Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

Incorporating 12-step program elements improves youth substance-use disorder treatment

July 26, 2017
A treatment program for adolescents with substance-use disorder that incorporates the practices and philosophy of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) produced even better results than the current state-of-the ...

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet May 02, 2012
"It takes a village to keep teens substance free
...and only one village idiot to keep them stoned...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.