Study: "Hands-On" Parents Can Reduce Drug, Alcohol Use In Children
By Keith Martin, Assistant Editor

 study released recently by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) reports that parents who take a "hands-on" approach in the lives of young people can have a profound impact on their abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. 

According to the sixth annual survey, 27 percent of teens in America live with "hands-on" parents, those who not only create fitting rules and standards but also monitor their teens, and these young adults are at one quarter the risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs as their peers with "hands-off" parents.

"The loud and clear message of the survey is this: moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals," said CASA President Joseph Califano, Jr. at a news conference announcing the study's findings. "Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs. They can counter negative media influences and the availability of marijuana and other drugs in a teen's world."

The survey defines "hands-on" parents as those who consistently take at least ten of the following actions:

* Monitor what their teens watch on TV
* Monitor what they do on the Internet
* Put restrictions on the CD's they buy
* Know where their teens are after school and on weekends
* Expect to be and are told the truth by their teens about where they are really going in evenings or on weekends
* Are "very aware" of their teen's academic performance
* Impose a curfew
* Make clear they would be "extremely upset" if their teen used pot
* Eat dinner with their teens most every night
* Turn off the TV during dinner
* Assign their teen regular chores
* Have an adult present when the teen returns from school

Furthermore, the survey of 1,000 U.S. youths aged 12 to 17 reveals that close to 20 percent of teens live with a "hands-off" parent, while the majority live with parents who have a "half-hearted" approach. "Hands-off" parents are defined as those who take five or less of the actions listed above or "consistently fail to set rules and monitor their teen's behavior."

The study goes on to say that there is increased risk among the children of "hands-off" parents in conjunction with the 12 actions. For example, when parents fail to impose a curfew, their teens are at one and a half times the risk of teens that have one. Also, regarding parents who fail to monitor their teen's academic performance, teens whose parents are "very unaware" of how their child is doing at school are at nearly three times the risk of teens whose parents are "very aware" of their teen's schooling.

Drugs Still A Concern For Teens

This year's study continues a trend that shows drugs are the biggest concern for teens. In 1999, 23 percent of surveyed students indicated concern, a number that rose three percent in the latest survey. The 2000 survey went a step further than those in previous years and asked teens who indicated that drugs were their biggest concern what about drugs concerned them the most. While 31 percent of teens indicated the harm to their life, 17 percent indicated they felt peer pressure to use drugs and only two percent showed concern regarding illegality.

The 2000 study also focused for the first time on the topic of teens and the drug Ecstasy. Twenty-eight percent of teens indicated that they know a friend or classmate who had used the drug, while 17 percent know more than one user. Also, 10 percent said they had been to a rave and that Ecstasy was available at 70 percent of them.

Giving Parents Additional Tools

Alyse Booth, Project Manger for the survey, notes that it is merely a tool for parents to utilize and isn't telling them how to raise their children. CASA doesn't want parents to misinterpret the study, says Booth, and see it as telling them they must be strict disciplinarians. Instead, the organization asks reasonable things to expect from parents.

"Those teens that said they have 'hands-on' parents also were those who had excellent relationships with their parents," she adds. By setting down distinct rules and enforcing them, Booth advocates, "clearer messages are better than murky ones."

The study has gained the approval of Suzy Garfinkle Chevrier, founder of the Parenting Project, a non-profit organization promoting the learning of parenting skills by all school-age children. 

"Any study that shows so clearly that hands-on parenting reduces the risks our children face is clearly telling parents they need to be more hands-on," she says. "It is also telling us as a society that we need to make sure that all parents are aware of and prepared to practice hands-on parenting. Parents who maintain open channels for communication have the influence to help their children steer safely through the negative influences of peers and media. "

She adds that the study reinforces what other studies in the past have shown - that that nurturing, effective parenting is critical to preventing school failure, depression, addictions, teen pregnancy, delinquency and criminal behavior. 

"To improve the odds of success for our nation's children, we must first give all parents the information, skills and support they need to lay the strongest possible foundations for their children," says Chevrier. 


Alyse Booth, Project Manager, CASA, (212) 841-5260

Suzy Garfinkle Chevrier, Founder, The Parenting Project, (888) PARENTS,
159 Burgin Parkway | Quincy, MA 02169
617-471-4445 | Fax 617-770-3339