2008 Parent Study on Teen Alcohol & Drug Use Reveals Mixed Bag of Results
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2009 May 05
The 2008 Parents Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) was recently released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and MetLife. The results of the 14th annual survey contains a mixed bag of results, and underscores the need for parents to take the lead in educating and preventing drug and alcohol use by their kids.
The Partnership/MetLife Foundation Parents Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals a strong increase in parental awareness of the dangers of one of the most troubling and persistent trends in teen drug use -- teen abuse of prescription medications.
According to the PATS 2008 survey, in a single year's time, the number of parents who mistakenly believe that abusing prescription medicines is "much safer" than using illicit street drugs dropped by nearly half--from 19 percent in 2007 to just ten percent in 2008. The same level of progress was reported regarding beliefs about the addictive potential of some prescription medicines when misused. In 2007, 24 percent of parents believed that intentional abuse of prescription medicines would not be addictive. In 2008, that number decreased significantly to 11 percent.
Yet, the heightened awareness has yet to translate into increased parental action to prevent the behavior, however. The data show a small, yet statistically insignificant, percentage gain in the number of parents who say they have discussed the dangers of Rx abuse with their teens, from 68 percent in 2007 to 72 percent in 2008. The top three drug topics parents report discussing with teens are drugs in general, cigarettes and alcohol.
Other significant findings:
Media Prompts Parent-Teen Conversations
The primary -- and increasingly influential -- cue for parent-teen discussions about drug and alcohol issues is the media, particularly television. In 2008, 70 percent of parents surveyed reported that something portrayed in the media prompted a conversation with their child about drugs or alcohol, and 64 percent specified that they were motivated to start a discussion by seeing something drug-related on television. This represents a significant increase from 2007, when 63 percent and 57 percent of parents, respectively, reported the media in general or television specifically as a cue to talk to teens about substance abuse.
Mothers Take the Lead in Monitoring, Dads Have Opportunity to Engage More With Kids
The 2008 PATS study reveals a jump in the number of parents who are aware of their ability to influence their teens' decision to use drugs or alcohol. The percentage of parents who agreed with the statement "there is very little parents can do to prevent their kids from trying drugs (other than alcohol)" dropped nearly 40 percent since 2007 to just 21 percent in 2008. More parents believe that they can help prevent alcohol use as well, with just 23 percent agreeing that there is little parents can do to prevent drinking, down from 34 percent in 2007.
Within the home, however, there are dramatic differences in attitudes between mothers and fathers. Fathers were nearly three times as likely to believe that drug education should take place in school (34 percent of fathers versus 10 percent of mothers). Additionally, fathers report greater difficulty reconciling the desire to have their child see them as a friend with the need to set rules and monitor their teens. Fathers were far more likely (18 percent) to report having difficulty enforcing rules about alcohol, cigarette or drug use than mothers (10 percent). Fathers also placed greater value on being their child's friend (59 percent of fathers, 51 percent of mothers) although the majority of parents thought friendship with their child was important. As mothers take the lead role in monitoring their teens, this creates a unique opportunity for fathers to engage their children on this important health issue.
If you are looking for more information on keeping your kids drugs and alcohol free, see HomeWord's free article, "How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs".