The risk of becoming a drug abuser involves the relationship between the deviant attitudes and behaviors and parental support.
- Association with drug-abusing peers may be a more significant risk factor for an adolescent.
- Family bonding is the bedrock of the relationship between parents and children.
- Parental monitoring and supervision are critical for drug abuse prevention. These skills can be enhanced with training on rule-setting; techniques for monitoring activities; praise for appropriate behavior; and moderate, consistent discipline that enforces defined family rules.
- Drug education and information for parents or caregivers reinforces what children are learning about the harmful effects of drugs and opens opportunities for family discussions about the abuse of legal and illegal substances.
What are the early signs of risk that may predict later drug abuse?
- Some signs of risk can be seen as early as infancy.
- Children's personality traits or temperament can place them at increased risk for later drug abuse.
- Withdrawn and aggressive boys, for example, often exhibit problem behaviors in interactions with their families, peers, and others they encounter in social settings.
If these behaviors continue, they will likely lead to other risks.
- These risks can include academic failure, early peer rejection, and later affiliation with deviant peers, often the most immediate risk for drug abuse in adolescence.
- Studies have shown that children with poor academic performance and inappropriate social behavior at ages 7 to 9 are more likely to be involved with substance abuse by age 14 or 15.
On the other hand, families can serve a protective function when there is:
- A strong bond between children and their families.
- Parental involvement in a child's life.
- Supportive parenting that meets financial, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.
- Clear limits and consistent enforcement of discipline.
Finally, critical or sensitive periods in development may heighten the importance of risk or protective factors. For example, mutual attachment and bonding between parents and children usually occurs in infancy and early childhood. If it fails to occur during those developmental stages, it is unlikely that a strong positive attachment will develop later in the child's life.
The Family Role
Family has an important role in providing protection for children when they are involved in activities outside the family. When children are outside the family setting, the most salient protective factors are:
- Age-appropriate parental monitoring of social behavior, including establishing curfews, ensuring adult supervision of activities outside the home, knowing the child's friends, and enforcing household rules.
- Success in academics and involvement in extracurricular activities.
- Strong bonds with prosocial institutions, such as school and religious institutions and acceptance of conventional norms against drug abuse.
The importance of the parent-child relationship continues through adolescence and beyond.
Research supports the idea that health-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are formed at an early age. Many researchers believe these are set before the age of 5. Therefore, a primary key to prevention is early intervention and getting the message out to our youth early!
Prevention includes helping young people develop positive living skills and providing them with accurate, non-judgmental information about the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Hopefully, they will internalize this information, and have a lifetime of protection from substance abuse.
Being able to deliver this information in an age appropriate manner is important, and should help gain their attention and insure their understanding. Teaching, children the principles in early elementary grades includes having discussions about various relevant concepts. These include how to protect themselves from alcohol and chemical dependency situations among their peers and within their family structure are critical.
For example, exploring concepts such as:
As a parent, providing your children an avenue to discuss these topics should prove to be most helpful. By doing so, you will be providing your children the building blocks for a solid anti-drug foundation. Assisting children from chemically-dependent homes is especially vital, since their chances of exposure are more probable.
The bottom line regarding prevention is this:
Early intervention DOES make a difference...
so, start the dialogue with your children early.
If you need further assistance or guidance, the following books may be helpful: