According to a new study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, which is the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics’s official journal, the attitudes of parents towards substance abuse could help explain the observed ethnic variations in prescriptive drug abuse amongst teens. The research’s finding support the accumulating evidence that parents continue to play a strong role in the decision making processes of adolescents, especially in regards to potentially hazardous behaviors.
The researchers analyzed data based on a national survey of over 180,000 adolescents. Caucasian teens had the largest rates of prescription drug abuse, which is consistent with previous studies, but this new research found that teens coming from higher-income households actually had lower rates of prescription drug abuse. The research also found that girls had higher rates in comparison to boys, and that older adolescents’ rates were higher, too.
What’s most interesting about this new research is that it found the teens whose parents disproved of prescription drug misuse had lower rates, although this effect did vary by ethnicity. Despite having the highest rates, Caucasian teens whose parents disproved of drug abuse were at a lower risk than the teens of two minority groups.
One of the study’s authors, Amy K. Marks, Ph.D., of Suffolk University, Boston, said, “No matter what the ethnic/racial background of the family, parents’ disapproving attitudes about misusing substances in general — whether alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco — play a strong role in protecting their adolescents from misusing prescription medicine.”
The study’s results could clue researchers in to the ways ethnic variations arise, as past studies on substance abuse in adolescents usually used race as an explanation. Instead, this study focuses more on “culture-specific factors,” instead of broad generalizations. Researchers believe that the study provides evidence that the disapproval of important socialization agents have a heavy impact on drug abuse.
According to Marks, “As we learn more about what kinds of socializing messages matter most to which cultural groups, clinicians, teachers, social workers, and parents alike can help keep steering their adolescents in meaningful ways to make healthy behavioral choices when it comes to prescription drugs.”