When it comes to adolescents and their decisions about high-risk behavior, such as whether to abuse prescription drugs, parents exert more influence than they may imagine. Many American parents believe that they have little voice in the choices their kids make. But a study conducted through Suffolk University in Boston, Mass., should give parents heart. Adolescents may be listening, but more about that in a minute.
The study was based on a survey of 18,000 kids across the country. That survey revealed that non-medical use of prescription medication continues to be one of the nation’s most quickly expanding substance problems. The survey also gave a peek into which youth are most involved and how parents and friends influence substance-use decisions.
Who Misuses Prescription Drugs Most?
The survey showed that white adolescents abuse and misuse prescription medications more than other racial or ethnic subgroups of youth. For instance, 3.4 percent of white adolescents reported misuse of prescription sedatives; 2.9 percent of Hispanic youth reported abusing sedatives, and just 0.9 percent of African American adolescents said they’d done so.
The study also found that the medications are more often abused by older rather than younger adolescents and by females more often than males.
All Parents Have Influence
Parents appear to influence adolescent decisions about whether or not to misuse prescribed drugs. Parental income was one contributing factor. Parents with higher incomes had adolescents who were less likely to abuse prescription medications.
Across all racial groups, the more parents expressed disapproval for substances, the less likely it was that their child would abuse prescription drugs. There were ethnic and racial variations, but in all cases the moms and dads who were most outspoken against substance abuse had the kids least likely to misuse prescription drugs. Regardless of race, when parents made it plain that they staunchly disapproved of tobacco, marijuana or alcohol use, the rate of prescription drug abuse also went down accordingly. If kids know that mom and dad are strongly opposed to some substances, the message translates to prescription drugs.
For instance, among African American parents there was strong disapproval for alcohol abuse, which seemed to cause a reduction in adolescent prescription drug abuse. Said another way, when black parents spoke up against alcohol, their kids also stayed away from prescription drugs. Within the Hispanic community it was strongly worded disapproval of marijuana that most lowered the likelihood of teen prescription abuse.
Some Friends Have Influence
Everyone agrees that adolescents are strongly influenced by their peer group. But what does that influence look like? The study found that for white adolescents, having key friends who disapprove of using substances worked to lower the rate of prescription drug abuse. According to the study, African American and Hispanic youth were not as strongly influenced by the attitudes of their friends and peers.
In every group studied (white, African American, Hispanic) parents played a significant socializing role in their children’s lives. Parents really do help to form the paradigm through which adolescent decisions are made.
Cultural Influence Study
The researchers in this study, which appears in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, say that plans for culturally-based investigation are already in the works. If researchers can identify which cultural factors work to protect youth against prescription drug abuse, then communities will be able to increase the positive pressure. By sounding messages with the most meaning inside the culture, more kids could be influenced away from risky behavior and toward healthy behavior.
Learn More About Preventing Teen Substance Abuse And Other Teen Hardships