Parents Not Aware of Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Use
> 10/4/2006 10:10:51 AM

A new study that appears in this month's edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research illustrates just how out of touch parents are about their adolescent and teen children's drinking. From the New York Times:

Parents consistently said they believed that their children were using substances less frequently than the children reported. Alcohol use was most common, with 54.4 percent of the teenagers reporting having consumed at least one drink in their lifetimes, and 23.6 percent saying they had been intoxicated. But only 30.5 percent of parents believed that their children had ever had a drink, and only 8.1 percent said their children had ever been drunk.

The authors pointed out that parents failed most at reporting substance use that their offspring described as a problem. Parents of younger children also did poorly, reporting usage at the lowest rate among the age groups.

Neither of these trends come as much of a surprise. The youngest children surveyed were 12 and 13 years-old. It would be difficult for even the most suspicious parent to admit their child was using drugs or alcohol. Likewise, many parents are more than willing to answer that their child has tried drugs or has had a beer. It is another thing entirely to accept that your 14 or 15 year-old may have a drinking or drug problem.

The authors conclude that this information should be used in future research into youth drug and alcohol abuse. Often parent reporting plays a part in those studies, but this new research shows just how unreliable that information can be. In reality, this research should again underscore the need for parents to be vigilant and involved in the life of their children. Giving kids space to learn and grow is important, especially during adolescence. But this is also a dangerous time for powerful habits to be formed, and parents need to talk with their children about drugs and alcohol, focusing on honesty and safety.

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