Parental attention can reduce risk of drug abuse in adolescence

December 04, 2017

Parents who require children to follow rules and keep a constant eye on their activities, endeavoring to know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing, run less risk of facing problems when their children enter adolescence, such as abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

The likelihood of such problems becomes smaller still when, in addition to using rules and keeping a close eye on their children, parents talk to them, explain what the rules are for, are present in their day-to-day lives, and are supportive when they experience difficulties. In the literature, this parenting style is called responsiveness.

The research project that produced these findings was conducted at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), surveying 6,381 children aged 11-15 in six Brazilian cities. The results have just been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"The key conclusion is that parenting style can be a protective factor or a risk factor for the consumption of alcohol and other drugs in adolescence. This means the drug abuse prevention programs implemented by schools should not just raise the children's awareness but also focus on training parenting skills," said Zila Sanchez, a professor at the university's Medical School (EPM-UNIFESP) and principal investigator for the project, which is supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP.

Data collection took place at 62 public schools in Tubarão and Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State; São Paulo and São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo State; Fortaleza, Ceará State; and Brasília, in the Federal District. The subjects were seventh- and eighth-grade primary school students with an average age of 12.5.

"We opted to work with schoolchildren in their early teens in order to find out whether parenting style already influences substance abuse at the start of adolescence," Sanchez said. "Because prevalence of consumption is very low when they're so young, our questionnaire asked if they had used drugs at least once in the previous year."

Research crosses parental and drug use profiles

The questionnaire was administered by researchers in the classroom without the presence of teachers in order to avoid inhibition and embarrassment. Participants completed it themselves and placed it anonymously in a brown envelope. In addition to drug use, it also asked about how the adolescents perceived their parents (parenting style), socioeconomic conditions, sexual behavior, and school violence, among other topics.

The responses were analyzed during Juliana Valente's PhD research, with a scholarship from FAPESP and supervision by Sanchez.

A statistical model called latent class analysis was used to identify three groups with similar patterns of drug use. "Abstainers/low users" were the most prevalent, accounting for 81.54% of the sample, followed by "alcohol users/binge drinkers" at 16.65%. "Polydrug users", who reported using tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, crack and/or inhalants such as benzene or glue in the previous year, as well as alcohol, accounted for 1.8%.

"The next step was to see if parenting styles were associated with any of these drug use profiles," Sanchez explained. "To this end, parenting styles were analyzed in four different groups, in accordance with the adolescents' own assessment and criteria established in the scientific literature."

Based on an assessment scale widely used in international studies and validated in Brazil, parental profiles were scored according to "demandingness", which relates to the degree to which parents monitor their children's activities and require them to follow rules, and "responsiveness", relating to the degree of parental sensitivity to children's needs and openness to dialogue.

Parents with high scores in both domains were classified as "authoritative". Those with high scores in demandingness alone were classified as "authoritarian". Responsive parents who neither monitored their children's activities nor required rule-keeping were considered "indulgent". Finally, parents with low scores in both domains were classified as "neglectful".

In line with the findings of surveys performed in other countries, the "authoritative" style was the most protective, followed by the "authoritarian" and "indulgent" styles. As the researchers note in the article, "neglectful" parents put adolescents at greater risk of belonging to the two classes of drug user identified by the study: alcohol users/binge drinkers, and polydrug users.

"The fact that an 'authoritative' style is more protective and a 'neglectful' style is riskier was expected, but there was disagreement about the 'authoritarian' and 'indulgent' styles in the literature. It wasn't clear which was better. The findings of our study reinforce the idea that demandingness, in the sense of more parental monitoring and use of rules, is a style that protects adolescents by preventing drug consumption," Valente said.

Well-off adolescents drink most

The researchers were particularly struck by the finding that the higher the interviewees' social class the more likely they were to belong to the binge drinker or polydrug user group. According to Sanchez, this result runs counter to those of surveys conducted in the US and Europe, where poverty is considered a risk factor for binge drinking and drug abuse in adolescence. On the other hand, it matches the findings of previous studies of the same age group conducted in Brazil.

"This is a very intriguing result and shows we can't simply import data relating to risk factors and protection for use in prevention programs here without taking cultural differences into account," Sanchez said.

For Valente, the statistical analysis did not support a link between different parenting styles and specific social classes because parenting styles were evenly distributed across household income brackets.

Data collection took place in late 2014 as part of a project funded by the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which commissioned the UNIFESP researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of a drug use prevention program called #Tamojunto in 62 selected schools.

"The program was brought from Europe, where it achieved good results, and adapted by the Ministry of Health," Valente said. "It was designed not just to convey knowledge of drugs to adolescents but also to develop personal and interpersonal skills. Here in Brazil, however, we didn't observe effectiveness based on the same metrics as in Europe."

According to Sanchez, the data analyzed during Valente's PhD and used as a basis for the article just published were collected before implementation of the program #Tamojunto and have no relation to its results.
-end-
About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. For more information: http://www.fapesp.br/en.

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.