Effective Parenting can reduce risk of substance use by adolescents.

Researchers have tested several models to explain in what way different factors influence the possibility that an adolescent starts to abuse substances. In all of these models, parental and family factors have a central position in the long-term pathways leading to substance abuse, whereas peer influence acts as a contributing factor closer to the time when youth initiate drug or alcohol use. In other words, although peer influence is often the major reason adolescents initiate negative behaviours, a positive family environment is the primary reason youth do not engage in these behaviours, including drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency and early or unprotected sex.

While it is recognized that the peer group is influential, it is now known that an
adolescent’s choice of peers is greatly affected by the relationship he or she has with his or her parents. When adolescents have a positive relationship with their parents, they are more likely to choose peers who are a positive influence. Further research has identified the critical family factors that help to protect children from substance abuse:

(a) Secure and healthy parent/child attachment;
(b) Parental supervision, monitoring and effective discipline;
(c) Communication of pro-social family values;
(d) Parental involvement in child’s life;
(e) Supportive parenting (emotionally, cognitively, socially and financially).

Research on resiliency has also confirmed these points. This body of research focuses on children and families living through acute or chronic stressful life events and confirms that parental and family factors contribute to the capacity of youth to overcome adverse family situations and achieve positive outcomes.

Research shows that parents who are supportive, who encourage their children to become independent, expect compliance with rules and are consistent and fair in their discipline practices have children who are more resilient than other children. This style of parenting is often labelled “authoritative parenting”. Other factors that have been found to contribute to resiliency are an organized family environment, supportive relations, family beliefs, family cohesion and flexibility, family problem-solving and coping skills, and communication.

The research provides strong evidence that parents and families can be powerful
protective factors in the lives of children and youth; conversely, the research provides clear evidence that certain family characteristics can act as strong risk factors. Poor management of children’s behaviour, harsh and inconsistent discipline, and lack of opportunities to learn social skills have been associated with social, psychological and academic problems in children and adolescents. In general, a chaotic home environment and lack of structure in the family life are major risk factors for substance abuse. Moreover, parent-child relationships and families characterized by indifference, non responsiveness, emotional insecurity and lack of consistency by parents in caring and comforting children during the early years of development are associated with higher risks of depression, anxiety and relationship problems among children and adults. Childhood depression has been further associated with drug use in early adolescence.

These factors often characterize families with substance-abusing parents, where family relationships are likely to be disrupted, particularly if the mother is an addict. When parents abuse substances, children have greater chances of repeated exposure to family conflicts and violence, including physical and verbal abuse, and to alcohol and drugs. Families with addiction problems tend to socially isolate to protect themselves from detection, social censure and criminal action. A side effect of this is that children also become isolated and develop fewer pro-social relationships.

To conclude, research indicates that the main factors in a family that put
children and youth at risk of substance abuse are the same factors that place youth at risk for other problem behaviours; hence efforts to prevent substance abuse will also have beneficial effects on other risky behaviours. The main factors in a family that put children and youth at risk of substance abuse are:

(a) Lack of bonding and insecure relationship with parents;
(b) Lack of a signifi cant relationship with a caring adult;
(c) Ineffective parenting;
(d) Chaotic home environment;
(e) Parents or siblings who abuse substances, suffer from mental illness or are involved in criminal behaviour;
(f) Social isolation.

Definition of family skills training programmes
What are family skills training programmes? Family skills training programmes generally aim at strengthening the family protective factors that have been mentioned above. For example, they might include exercises to increase communication, trust, problem-solving skills and conflict resolution or they might include opportunities for parents and children to spend positive time together, as ways to strengthen the bonding and attachment between parents and children. To match the protective and risk factors described above, family skills training programmes generally include strategies aimed at increasing:

(a) Positive family relationships;
(b) Family supervision and monitoring;
(c) Communication of family values and expectations.

These strategies are generally grouped and presented in three sub-sessions within a given intervention session: family skills training programmes generally combine:
(a) training of parents to strengthen their parenting skills;
(b) training of children in personal and social skills; and
(c) family practice sessions.

Thus, a typical session will see parents and children attending their own training groups and, at the end, coming together as a whole family for some practice time. These interventions are generally delivered to groups of families and allow for practice time within individual families. Some programmes use technology (computer-based learning and telephones) as an intervention modality, especially for universal-level delivery and for families living in remote locations.

A recent research review40 concluded that the most effective family skills training
programmes include active parental involvement, focus on the development of
adolescents’ social skills and responsibility among children and adolescents, and
address issues related to substance abuse. Effective interventions also involve youth in family activities and strengthen family bonds.

Source: Family skills training programmes for drug abuse prevention
ONDCP Vienna 23rd March 2009

Filed under: Parents :

Back to top of page - Back to Parents

Powered by WordPress