Many parents wonder how their parenting style might influence their child’s decision to use or not use drugs and alcohol. In fact, studies have shown that parents have significant influence over whether a child or teen will experiment with drugs and alcohol. A study published in the May 2014 issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence adds to that body of knowledge in this area and suggests that parents can begin pointing a child in the right direction with the type of parenting style they employ. The study examined four specific parenting styles and attempted to determine whether any of the styles were associated with increased likelihood of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use among the children. The types of parenting styles were as follows:
- The authoritative model — the parents communicate clear rules and demonstrate flexibility paired with affection toward their children.
- The authoritarian model — the parents retain a high level of control over the children’s behavior, but exhibit low levels of affection toward them.
- The neglectful model — parents exhibit a low level of control over their children, and also demonstrate a lower level of affection toward them.
- The indulgent model — the parents do not prioritize control, but they are affectionate toward their children.
The researchers found that parents who were authoritarian (strict but not warm) and those who were neglectful (neither strict nor warm) were the most likely to have children who use alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. In contrast, children with parents who were authoritative (strict but warm) or indulgent (not strict but warm) were at a lower risk for substance use. The researchers believe that good communication and a positive relationship are key in reducing risk of substance abuse. The study was an international effort led by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention. The researchers focused on parenting styles and their impact on teenagers in Sweden, the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The results, which are based on interviews with 7,718 adolescents between ages 11 and 19, indicate that extremes in parenting are likely not ideal. The best parenting combinations emphasize attention on the children and time spent together. Even if a parent is overly indulgent and allows the child excessive freedom, that parenting style is more likely to keep kids from substance use when compared to styles that are characterized by a more distant relationship.