While alcohol and tobacco companies have often been accused of marketing their products to teenagers, parents may be surprised to know that there is work being done to counter the effort.
Zhiyong Yang is an associate professor of marketing in the UT Arlington College of Business. His work, however, is focused on how to demarket teen alcohol and tobacco consumption. A recent study provides evidence that parents play a crucial role in that demarketing process.
Age Of Child And Frequency Of Talks Matter
The study finds that parents who talk early and often about the risks associated with tobacco and alcohol use have a more powerful impact on their child than peer pressure or the marketing techniques of alcohol and tobacco companies.
The study provides evidence that parental influence is powerfully effective at discouraging children from using alcohol and tobacco as they age through the teen years. The new study backs up work conducted in 2010 that provided insight into the impact of open dialogue on lessening risky behaviors in teens. Parent conversations, says Yang, are even more powerful than social media or peer pressure influences.
The findings, according to Yang, show that parenting styles can be adapted and changed. In addition, the study showed that parents’ influence is important not only in its depth, but also in its long-lasting effects.
The research conducted by Yang was based on data from national Canadian surveys, involving individuals from childhood to the age of 25. Yang explains that given the large sample size and similar smoking trends in the United States, the findings are applicable in both countries’ populations.
Influences Grow Stronger
The research provides results that will be surprising to many parents, who may have been led to believe that as their children enter adolescence, their influence tapers off. Peer pressure, as well as marketing efforts and advertising are very powerful influences on teen choices regarding alcohol and tobacco.
Yang explains the findings by reminding parents that they have parented their child from birth, and that no other influence could be more impacting.
However, Yang cautions that some strategies that are used by parents may backfire and launch the child toward alcohol and tobacco, rather than protecting them from it. Negative reinforcement, physical discipline and negative consequences are all parenting choices that could result in a teen that resents the relationship and is rebellious.
Yang says that the findings should be used as a springboard to help public school districts instruct parents on their role in preventing these behaviors and learning tools to incorporate open dialogue in the relationship with their child. For instance, Yang encourages parents to share their own experiences with their child, providing insight into the difficulties and risks that their own choices introduced.