Parents who require children to follow rules and keep a constant eye on their activities, endeavoring to know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing, run less risk of facing problems when their children enter adolescence, such as abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
The likelihood of such problems becomes smaller still when, in addition to using rules and keeping a close eye on their children, parents talk to them, explain what the rules are for, are present in their day-to-day lives, and are supportive when they experience difficulties. In the literature, this parenting style is called responsiveness.
The research project that produced these findings was conducted at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), surveying 6,381 children aged 11-15 in six Brazilian cities. The results have just been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
“The key conclusion is that parenting style can be a protective factor or a risk factor for the consumption of alcohol and other drugs in adolescence. This means the drug abuse prevention programs implemented by schools should not just raise the children’s awareness but also focus on training parenting skills,” said Zila Sanchez, a professor at the university’s Medical School (EPM-UNIFESP) and principal investigator for the project, which is supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP.
Data collection took place at 62 public schools in Tubarão and Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State; São Paulo and São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo State; Fortaleza, Ceará State; and Brasília, in the Federal District. The subjects were seventh- and eighth-grade primary school students with an average age of 12.5.
“We opted to work with schoolchildren in their early teens in order to find out whether parenting style already influences substance abuse at the start of adolescence,” Sanchez said. “Because prevalence of consumption is very low when they’re so young, our questionnaire asked if they had used drugs at least once in the previous year.”
– Medical Life Sciences