Bad friends, strict parenting, and a lack of emotional support could be a recipe for teen boys getting into drugs and alcohol. Boys that act up in class at a young age are the most likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol in adolescence. However, parental emotional support may be the key to keeping your teenage sons drug-free. A longitudinal study revealed a connection between early disruptive behavior and teenage substance abuse.
The participants consisted of 1,037 Caucasian boys from low-socioeconomic backgrounds in Montreal, Quebec who were followed from early childhood (6 years of age) to adolescence (15 years of age). While the kids were between 6 and 10, researchers looked at school records and parent and teacher reports to determine the extent of their aggressive and disobedient behaviors. When the kids were 12 and 14, researchers studied the closeness and communication of the subjects with both their families and their peers. Finally, as the kids turned 14 and 15, researchers examined the frequency of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, as measured through self-reports.
The results showed that misbehaving students who had close relationships with their parents while still maintaining strictness had the lowest chance of developing drug abuse habits. The same outcome occurred for disruptive students with well-behaved friends. It is unclear whether these close but strict parents prevented drug use or if their parenting style prevented the kids from forming friendships with delinquents, thereby lessening the participants’ exposure to drugs.
Interestingly, disruptive participants who had strict parents with whom they were not close had the highest chance of developing drug abuse habits. In other words, participants who risked developing delinquent behavior responded negatively to demanding parents when they did not receive emotional support. Meanwhile, peer pressure was strong factor as well. No matter how tight the bond, if their friends were dabbling in drugs they were more likely to try drugs too.
There are limitations in the study design that should be considered. First, only boys from low socio-economic backgrounds were chosen to participate. Although the participant sample was deliberately limited to prevent the influence of variable socio-economic factors, the study does not mention how low socio-economic factors could lead to drug abuse apart from parental and peer influence. Second, the study mostly used self-reports, which may not have been completely accurate.
Although the study only used male participants, girls are also capable of developing drug abuse habits. A study conducted in 2009 found that teenage girls are more likely to “self-medicate” with drugs in times of high stress and anxiety, whereas teenage boys reported drug use as a social activity.