Alcoholism & Addiction

Study Measures Parents Awareness of Teen Substance Use

Parents can play a significant role in a youth’s likeliness of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use. The first step in being a positive influence is to be aware of what their youth is doing on a daily basis, who they are hanging out with and where they are spending most of their time.

A report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Parent Awareness of Youth Use of Cigarettes, Alcohol and Marijuana, gathers data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to present information on the prevalence, patterns and consequences of drug and alcohol use and abuse among youth aged 12 to 17 years old.

According to this data, 17 percent of youths used cigarettes in the past year, 32.0 percent used alcohol and 13.2 percent used marijuana. These findings indicate that more work needs to be done to prevent teenage consumption of these substances and parental involvement can go a long way towards success.

In combined data from 2002 to 2006, researchers found that rates of past year use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana were similar in mother-child and father-child pairs. In mother-child pairs, 17.6 percent of youths used cigarettes, 32.5 percent used alcohol and 13.4 percent used marijuana. In father-child pairs, 15.3 percent used cigarettes, 31.5 percent used alcohol and 12.3 percent used marijuana.

Youth use of these substances was generally higher within one-parent households than within two-parent households. For instance, 20.2 percent of youths in mother-child pairs within one parent households used cigarettes in the past year, compared with 16.8 percent of youths in mother-child pairs within two-parent households. Rates overall were the highest for all three substances among youths in father-child pairs within one-parent households.

Mothers tended to be more aware of their youth’s substance use than fathers. For instance, 41.1 percent of mothers in the mother-child pairs who used marijuana in the past year were aware of their child’s marijuana use. This figure was in comparison to 32.5 percent of fathers in comparable father-child pairs.

Awareness among parents of adolescent use of cigarettes and alcohol in the past year increased with the youth’s age among both mother-child and father-child pairs. For example, 33.4 percent of mothers of youths aged 12 to 14 were aware of past year alcohol use. Another 60.5 percent of mothers with youths aged 15 to 17 were aware of alcohol use.

Among one-parent households, mothers tend to have the highest rates of awareness of their child’s past year substance use, followed by mothers in mother-child pairs within two-parent households. Fathers in father-child pairs within two-parent households were third in terms of awareness.

These findings indicate that parents need to be more aware of what their children are involved in, especially fathers. Children are often trying new things as a way of coping with situations or breaking out of stressful environments. Paying attention and asking the right questions will go a long way toward parents keeping their children away from these substances.

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