Know Thy Neighbor… and His Parents

Teen drinking and smoking influenced by the parenting styles of his friends parents

(RxWiki News) Teenagers' parents can make a difference in whether their kids drink, smoke or use marijuana, based on past research. But the parents of teens' friends play a part too.

A recent study found that teenagers whose friends had neglectful parents were more likely to drink and smoke cigarettes and pot.

"Know your teens' friends — and their parents."

The study, led by Holly B. Shakya, PhD, of the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, looked the association between a teenager's substance abuse and the parenting styles of his friends' parents.

The data came from a nationally representative sample of 1,386 teenagers and the 1,404 adolescents that included the friends identified by the first group.

The teens were studied over two years, during which they answered extensive surveys.

The researchers assessed the parenting styles of the teenagers' friends' parents, based on four standard styles: "authoritative," "authoritarian," "permissive" or "neglectful." These are defined based on the absence or presence of warmth and control.

Neglectful parents are neither warm nor in control with their children, and authoritarian parents exert control without being warm.

Permissive parents show warmth but do not exert control. The considered "ideal" is the authoritative style, where parents exert control but also show warmth and good communication.

The researchers also took into consideration the parenting style of a teenager's own mother as well as the teens' demographics and school-related effects.

The behaviors the researchers looked for included alcohol abuse, smoking, marijuana use and binge drinking.

They found that teens who had a friend with an authoritative mother were 40 percent less likely to drink to the point of becoming drunk compared to teens who had a friend with a neglectful mother.

The teens whose friends had authoritative moms were also 38 percent less likely to binge drink, 39 percent less likely to smoke and 43 percent less likely to use marijuana, all compared to teens whose friends had neglectful moms.

These results were true outside of a teenager's own mother's parenting style.

These results were slightly affected if a teens' friends smoked, drank or used marijuana, but not by much.

Separate from the influence of either parents, teens who had a friend who drank enough to become drunk were then 32 percent more likely to do the same.

The friends of binge drinking teens were 47 percent more likely to binge drink.

The influence of friends was even more significant for smoking and marijuana use.

If a teenager's friend was a smoker, the teen was 90 percent more likely to smoke as well. And the friends of teenage marijuana users were 146 percent more likely to also smoke pot.

The authors concluded that the social network influences on a teenager may extend beyond his own parents and include the effects of his friends' parents.

The study was published October 8 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 8, 2012