Parents Seriously Underestimate Availability and Use of Drugs Among Their Children

ccording to the results of a national survey in America 34% of parents of teens thought their child had been offered drugs, while over one-half (52%) of the teens reported being offered drugs. This disparity is even greater for youth–7% of parents thought their preteen had ever been offered drugs, while 23% of the youths said they actually had. Parents perceptions of their children’s drug use is not much better. While parents of preteens had fairly accurate perceptions of their children’s experimentation with marijuana and cocaine, they underestimated their children’s use of inhalants. Parents of teenagers seriously underestimated their children’s use of all three of these substances. According to the authors, “parents need to understand the true vulnerability of their kids to drug experimentation today, and to educate themselves about drug use so that they can have greater confidence in listening to, talking with, and educating their children”.

Drug Availability and Use Among U.S. Students, Grades 4-12,
Parents Perceptions Versus Students’ Self-Reports, 1995*

Pre-teens Teenagers
(Grades 4-6) (Grades 7 – 12)

Parents’ Youth Parents’ Teens
Student’s Experiences Perceptions Reported perceptions Reported

Anyone ever tried to sell or give drugs 7% 23% 34% 52%
to student
Student tried marijuana at least once 1 2 14 38
Student tried cocaine/crack at least once 1 1 3 8
Student tried inhalants at least once 1 6 3 24

*This national survey was conducted by Audits & Surveys Worldwide, Inc. on behalf of the Partnership For a Drug-Free America. Self-administered questionnaires were given to a randomly selected sample of 2,424 youth (grades 4-6). 6,096 teenagers (grades 7-12) and 822 parents (adults aged 18 and older who were parents of children under 19). The survey was conducted in May and June of 1995.
Source: CESAR from Partnership, for a Drug-Free America. Attitude Tracking Study. February 1996.

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