Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Parent norms affect teen drug use

Norms and availability are two of the strongest predictors of youth marijuana use (see previous posts for details).  While the availability risk factor is relatively well known, the risk factor of "norms" is less well known.

"Norms" refers to what people think is normal and acceptable behavior.  If a certain behavior is considered normal or acceptable, it can shape human behavior.  Norms are present in different domains -- community, family, school, and peer groups.  The strongest predictors of youth marijuana use are peer norms followed by community and parent norms.  Following is more information about parent norms and how they affect teenage drug use.

Parental attitudes and behavior toward drugs . . . influence the attitudes and behavior of their children.  Parental approval of young people's moderate drinking, even under parental supervision, increases the risk of the young person using marijuana. . . . Further, in families where parents involve children in their own drug or alcohol behavior -- for example, asking the child to light the parent's cigarette or get the parent a beer from the refrigerator -- there is an increased likelihood that their children will become substance abusers in adolescence.  (From: Substance Abuse Prevention: The Intersection of Science and Practice, page 20)

In NE Seattle, Eckstein Middle School 8th graders report that parents think it is wrong from them to use marijuana or alcohol.  (WA Healthy Youth Survey)  Parents have been good at getting their attitude about kids not using drugs across to their young teenage children.

While the Prevention WINS coalition will continue to monitor NE Seattle student's perceptions about their parent's attitudes, we are also interested in how other adults in the community affect youth drug use.  While young teens still overwhelmingly perceive that adults think that their use of drugs is wrong, between 2010-12 there was a dip of 5 percentage points when 8th graders were asked about marijuana.  

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