According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in six 10th graders and about one in four 12th graders report using marijuana within the last month. Lots of teens start smoking pot because friends or family members use it; others may use marijuana to escape problems at home or at school. So how can parents prevent teens from smoking pot in the first place? Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Michigan State University in East Lansing found that parental supervision plays an important role in preventing teens from taking that first toke.
Researchers followed 957 children from elementary school age to adulthood. From 1989-1994, starting when the children were in 4th grade, researchers interviewed the kids every year about their parents' supervision and involvement at home. The children answered questions like "What time does your mom or dad expect you to come home from school?", "How often do you talk with your mom or dad about your plans for the coming day?", or "How many days in a week do you sit around and talk with your dad or mom?" These questions were designed to assess how involved the parents were in their children's lives. The children also answered questions about their parents' discipline techniques, and the kids' teachers reported on the children's behavior throughout the school year. The children also noted whether they'd ever tried alcohol or marijuana.
In 2000 to 2002, when the children had grown into young adults, researchers asked them to report the first time they'd been offered or tried marijuana and whether they'd used it regularly.
When the study participants were in 4th grade, 5% had already smoked cigarettes at least once and 5% had already tried alcohol without their parents' permission at least once. In addition, about 5% of the 4th graders had smoked marijuana. And by young adulthood, 78% of the children in the study had had a chance to try marijuana.
Parental supervision played a role in the age at which children were offered marijuana. Children whose parents offered the lowest levels of supervision had the highest risk of being offered marijuana at an early age. Children whose parents got angry while disciplining their children and who didn't follow through on punishments also tended to have a higher risk of being offered marijuana at an early age.
What This Means to You: According to the results of this study, children whose parents are less involved in their lives and who don't ensure their supervision may have more opportunities to try marijuana. Getting to know your child's friends, setting a curfew, making sure your kid is supervised after school, spending time together as a family, and praising your child for a job well done are just a few ways you can foster connectedness and possibly help prevent your child from being exposed to drugs. Talk to your child's doctor if you're concerned that your child may be using drugs or if you have questions about your family's discipline techniques.
Source: Chuan-Yu Chen, PhD; Carla L. Storr, ScD; James C. Anthony, PhD; Pediatrics, June 2005; National Institute on Drug Abuse, http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teenpg3-4.html#many
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2005