Relationship with tweens important for avoiding alcohol, drugs
The Daily Nonpareil
By Scott Stewart
December 31, 2015
New research from Iowa State University shows parents can reduce the risk of their children considering experimenting with alcohol or drugs in adolescence by maintaining healthy and open relationships.
According to a university press release, Thomas Schofield, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State, said parents who know what’s going on with their children and their friends can reduce the negative influence of deviant friends and their children’s peers who could facilitate substance use.
“Parents don’t even have to be ‘super parents,’” Schofield said in the release. “As long as they’re at the 71st percentile, or getting a C- in parenting, both of these dangerous pathways to drug abuse go away.”
The study by Schofield and two University of California, Davis, researchers – Rand Conger and Richard Robins – observed interactions between Latino parents and children to gauge the level and effects of parental monitoring. They focused on Latino families to understand if cultural differences influenced parenting behaviors and outcomes.
Generally, Latinos are at greater risk to use drugs and alcohol at an early age, and the group has a higher rate of use over time, according to Schofield. The study looked at nearly 675 children in fifth grade and again in seventh grade.
The relationship scaffolding falls away when parents don’t deliberately invest time in middle and late childhood, Schofield said. Early adolescence is not a particularly risky time, but it’s the best time to get children communicating with their parents and creating a relationship together, he said.
A separate study, conducted by Schofield and Jennifer Weaver at Boise State University, found parents also change each other’s thoughts and actions, according to the Iowa State release. According to Schofield, beliefs about parenting predicted change in actual parenting behavior.
“Young people seek out romantic partners based on shared interests, physical attractiveness and how fun they are, not based on what kind of parent they’ll become,” Schofield said. “Whoever you end up making your spouse, they’re going to influence your parenting behavior. That should be a factor in deciding who you have children with and it is not a factor a lot of people take into consideration.”