In the news
There have been some interesting pieces of research this half term – including news that sociable teenagers are 'less likely to binge drink or smoke cigarettes and cannabis' – which may seem surprising! It is around the fact that sociable and secure teenagers feel more confident in themselves and so feel less of a need to experiment. Their parents are more likely to keep tabs on them and know their friends too. The team from the University of Dundee researched 1,000 teenagers aged 13 and 17.The study showed that having strong connections with those three key groups - family, classmates and friends - lowered the likelihood of a teenager falling victim to substance use – halving the likelihood of binge drinking for example from 40% to 20%. Study author Kristy Miller, a PhD candidate, said: 'This illustrates the importance of teenagers strongly identifying with as many social groups as possible in order to protect against mental health problems and negative health behaviours.'
The importance of parents and carers knowing where their children are and who they are with has been shown in another study from Glasgow and Queens University Belfast with a lack of parental control linked to heaviest teen drinkers – not surprising news – but interestingly it was secretive teenagers who were drinking the most heavily – and it was not affected by how good the childs relationship was with their family or carers. What affected level of drinking was if boundaries and rules were in place. More than 4,900 young people took part and were followed between 2000 and 2011. Study author Dr McCann said the study suggested that the determining factor was not so much the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control exercised by parents.
“Why that should be is a bit of a puzzle. However, we are hypothesising that while emotional support and closeness are important for ensuring mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home such as peer influences and social media,” He added: “Given that adolescence is often a critical period for the beginning of alcohol use, and that alcohol harms are not confined to children from so-called ‘problem’ families, support for adolescent parenting – rather than alcohol awareness for parents – may be a more beneficial target for public policy aimed at young people’s health behaviour.”
Source: Assessing elements of a family approach to reduce adolescent drinking frequency: parent-adolescent relationship, knowledge management, and keeping secrets.