FRIDAY, Dec. 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Peer pressure isn't the only major factor influencing whether teens use drugs. Parents also play an important role, a new study finds.
"Much of the previous research in this area shows that adolescents make their decisions about drugs based on influence from their friends. But those studies neglect the notion we found here, that some of the family characteristics help determine who teens associated with," study lead author Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, explained in a prepared statement.
"We also found that some steps taken by parents had a direct effect on lowering drug abuse, even in the face of peer influences," he said.
The study of more than 4,000 students in grades seven through 12 found that:
- For each degree of tolerance (on a five-point scale) toward marijuana that teens perceive in their parents, there is a 33 percent increase in frequency of teen marijuana use.
- Frequency of marijuana use declines 10 percent for each degree that teens perceive their parents are monitoring their activities, even after taking into account peer influence.
- Risk of illegal drug use is reduced by 14 percent for each degree that teens believe parents are monitoring their activities.
The study also found that siblings have a major impact on teen drug use. Having an older sibling who used marijuana was associated with a 58 percent increased likelihood that a teen would also use the drug.
The findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention.
"The fact that parents can make a difference in peer choices, or even after those peer choices are made, is an important message to get out there. Parents, you shouldn't throw up your hands, even if you find out your kids are starting to hang around with kids who use drugs," study co-author and sociology professor John Hoffman said in a prepared statement.
He and Bahr suggest that parents can monitor their teens by asking questions such as: Who are your friends? Whose house are you going to? What will you be doing? Which adults will be around? When will you be home?
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about teen and child drug prevention.