New research by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers looks at the specific ways parents and peers influence teenagers to smoke, drink and use marijuana in combination. Among their findings: attitudes toward smoking influenced teenagers' use of multiple drugs (smoking, drinking and marijuana), and that this manifested itself differently in boys and girls.

For girls, friends were shown to be central. Ambivalent or permissive attitudes within their social group toward smoking were associated with poly-drug use -- defined as two or more of the following behaviors: smoking, drinking and marijuana use. This wasn't the case with boys, whose poly-drug use was instead predicted by the extent to which they perceived smoking to be prevalent in their larger age group -- not just among their friends.

"If a teenager feels smoking is socially acceptable and widely practiced, they are much more likely not only to smoke, but to also drink and possibly use marijuana," says lead author Dr. Jennifer A. Epstein, assistant professor of public health in the Division of Prevention and Health Behavior at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The study also revealed several factors that were the same for boys and girls. When their friends drank alcohol or smoked or when their parents had permissive or ambivalent attitudes toward drinking, both teenage boys and girls were more likely to report poly-drug use. Other major variables included teenagers' inability to refuse drugs and achieve goals through their own efforts.

"A parent's opinion matters. Moms and dads are critical role models and should let their attitudes against drug use be known. It's also important to keep an eye on their child's social circle, since, especially for girls, it's their friends who are so central to influencing their behavior," says Dr. Epstein. "At the same time, parents can do things that reduce their child's risk for using drugs, such as teaching them to set goals and assert themselves."

Source: Science Daily
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930132702.htm