Parents know that one day they will have to talk to their
children about drug use. The hardest part is to decide whether or not talking
about one’s own drug use will be useful in communicating an antidrug message.
Recent research, published in the journal Human Communication Research, found that
children whose parents did not disclose drug use, but delivered a strong
antidrug message, were more likely to exhibit antidrug attitudes.
How the study was done
Jennifer A. Kam, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
and Ashley V. Middleton, MSO Health Information Management, published in Human
Communication Research their findings from surveys of 253 Latino and 308
European American students from the sixth through eighth grades.
The students reported on the conversations that they have
had with their parents about alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Kam and
Middleton were interested in determining how certain types of messages were
related to the students' substance-use perceptions, and in turn, behaviours.
Past research found that teens reported that they would be
less likely to use drugs if their parents told them about their own past drug
use. In Kam and Middleton's study, however, Latino and European American
children who reported that their parents talked about the negative
consequences, or regret, over their own past substance use were actually less
likely to report anti-substance-use perceptions.
This finding means that when parents share their past
stories of substance use, even when there is a learning lesson, such messages
may have unintended consequences for early adolescent children.
Kam and Middleton's study identifies specific messages that
parents can relay to their children about alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana
that may encourage anti-substance-use perceptions, and in turn, discourage
actual substance use. For example, parents may talk to their kids about the
negative consequences of using substances, how to avoid substances, that they
disapprove of substance use, the family rules against substance use, and
stories about others who have gotten in trouble from using substances.
"Parents may want to reconsider whether they should
talk to their kids about times when they used substances in the past and not
volunteer such information, Kam said. "Of course, it is important to
remember this study is one of the first to examine the associations between
parents' references to their own past substance use and their adolescent
children's subsequent perceptions and behaviours."