Parents Play Crucial Role In Preventing Substance Use By Kids
December 5, 2012

Parental Involvement Impacts Likelihood Of Child’s Drug Use

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Scientists from Brigham Young University, North Carolina State University, and Pennsylvania State University recently discovered that parents play a crucial role in terms of helping to prevent and limit alcohol or marijuana use by their children.

In particular, the team of investigators found that parents have more of an impact than a child´s school environment.

“Parents play an important role in shaping the decisions their children make when it comes to alcohol and marijuana,” explained the study´s co-author Toby Parcel, a professor of sociology at NC State, in a prepared statement. “To be clear, school programs that address alcohol and marijuana use are definitely valuable, but the bonds parents form with their children are more important. Ideally, we can have both.”

Using data from a nationally representative sample (the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988) with information from over 10,000 student, parents, teachers, and school administrators, the researchers were able to have a better gauge of “family social capital” versus “school social capital.” They looked at environmental influence on marijuana and alcohol use by students, and found that family social capital was based off of the relationship between parents and child along with trust, open communication, and active participation by guardians. On the other hand, school social capital was based of the positivity of a school campus, student involvement in activities outside of the classroom, teacher morale, as well as the ability of an instructor to address issues related to students.

“Social capital explains the mechanisms and processes by which bonds between children and other actors, such as their parents or their teachers, produce desirable outcomes. Adult investment in children, then, is more than supervision or control; such investment creates the mechanism through which children are socialized,” wrote the authors in the paper. “Adults must choose the costs of investing in children´s development to transmit the knowledge and norms that lead to positive socialization. Discouraging adolescent drug use is an arena in which the form and function of social capital should be pertinent, as parents, schools, and governments strive to transmit norms against illicit or underage drug use.”

In the research project, the researchers separately studied alcohol and marijuana use. For both, the team of investigators discovered that students who had high levels of family social capital but low levels of school social capital had a lower likelihood of using marijuana or alcohol. Even if they used alcohol or marijuana, they used the substances less frequently that than who had high levels of school social capital but low levels of family social capital.

Based on the findings, the researchers believe that the future research on social capital could affect the policies currently used at schools.

“These studies may be instructive as we seek to learn more about how social capital operates more generally. Specifically, having demonstrated that it is feasible to measure capital at home and capital at school as separate social constructs, we look forward to investigations that consider whether other contexts of social capital, such as the peer structure and the community, may also promote youth well-being,” concluded the authors in the journal article.

The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Drug Issues.