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Parental Boundaries and Their Influence on Adolescent Substance Use

Creating the Healthiest Nation: FCD at the APHA Annual Meeting

 

 Every year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) gathers professionals in the fields of health promotion and disease prevention to discuss the major health issues of our day. The November 2019 APHA Annual Meeting focused on the theme "Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For health." FCD was invited to give two presentations related to this theme. Our first presentation was on the role of parental boundaries and their influence on adolescent substance use.

FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey

FCD's presentation was based on data collected from the FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey. This survey is a 50-question research instrument, designed to give a snapshot of a school community's substance use; attitudes towards substance use; perceptions around peers' use of alcohol or other drugs; and attitudes about school, family, and substance use policies. On a larger scale, this data is aggregated to look at global trends.

 

The survey asks students to report their own alcohol and other substance use on a lifetime, annual, and past-30-days basis. Students are also asked to report agreement or disagreement with six statements regarding parental involvement in their lives. These statements are:

  1. "My parents show interest in my schoolwork."
  2. "The rules in my family are clear."
  3. "My parents want me to call if I'm going to be late getting home."
  4. "My parents would know if I did not come home on time."
  5. "My family has clear rules about alcohol and drug abuse."
  6. "When I am not at home, one of my parents knows how to contact me in an emergency."

From 2009 to 2018, the FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey was conducted among 121,483 6th-12th grade students in 35 countries. FCD used this database to examine the relationship between parental involvement and student substance use.

 

For science

Students who expressed agreement with all six statements, versus agreement with some or none, were less likely to report using substances and more likely to report getting higher grades in school. 

 

When looking at the six statements individually, agreement with two of the statements was consistently associated with lower annual and monthly use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Students who agreed with the statement "my parents would know if I did not come home on time" were:

  • 30% less likely to report using alcohol in the past 12 months, and past 30 days
  • 34% less likely to report using marijuana in the past 12 months, and 35% less likely in the past 30 days
  • 30% less likely to report using electronic vaporizers in the past 12 months, and 28% less likely to report using in the past 30 days.

If a student agreed with the statement: "My family has clear rules about alcohol and drug abuse," they were:

  • 44% less likely to report using alcohol in the past 12 months, and 37% less likely to use in the past 30 days
  • 41% less likely to report using marijuana in the past 12 months, and 40% less likely in the past 30 days
  • 26% less likely to report using electronic vaporizers in the past 12 months, and 27% less likely to report using in the past 30 days.

For action. For health.

Parents are in a unique position to structure an environment for their children that promotes healthy choices and non-use. Parents showing interest in their child's life, and having clear rules about substance use and other topics, have the power to create a positive environment where teens can thrive.

Parents with children of any age can be coached to have age-appropriate conversations around substance use and building healthy habits. In FCD's recent e-journal series on permissive parenting, we provided tips and resources for parents who want to foster a climate of prevention in their home.

To receive a copy of that e-journal series, or for more information on resources available for your community's parents, email schools@fcd.org.