Bad Habits May Run in the Family

Kids of smokers, drinkers especially prone to these behaviors, study findsChildren with a parent who smokes, drinks heavily or uses marijuana are more likely to adopt these behaviors when they’re teens or adults, U.S. research suggests.


Children of smokers are especially at risk, say a team from the University of Washington.

“If your parents were smokers, it is a double whammy because you are more likely to use drugs in general and even more likely to smoke cigarettes,” study co-author Karl Hill, a research associate professor at the university’s Social Development Research Group, said in a prepared statement.

“There is something about tobacco that if parents smoke, their kids are more likely to smoke. It may be that parents who smoke might leave cigarettes around where their children can see and get to them. Parents may not leave marijuana and alcohol around in the same way,” Hill said.

The researchers tracked 808 people who were students when they were first recruited from Seattle elementary schools in 1985. Data was also collected from their parents and their children.

In addition to a family/substance abuse link, the researchers found familial links for child behavior problems such as conduct disorder (fighting, stealing); attention-deficit disorder (lack of focus, inability to sit still or maintain attention); and oppositional-defiant disorder (problems with authority).

“Children of smokers, heavy drinkers, or marijuana users are more likely to have behavior problems when they are young, and consequently more likely to have drug problems themselves as they get old. These children then grow up to be adult substance users, whose kids have behavior problems and the cycle is repeated,” study author and research scientist Jennifer Bailey said in a prepared statement.

The study was published in the current issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers information about preventing substance abuse in children.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Aug. 10, 2006
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