Drugs: If parents talk more, kids use less

Our teenagers still have a lot to learn at home. Findings from a new study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) underscores the need for parents to talk, talk, talk to their teens about drugs. That open communication directly influences what the kids will or will not try, the nationwide study says. ParentsPlace.com knows how challenging it can be to discuss tough topics, but the following news release from

NEW YORK, April 26th -- Although virtually all parents in America (98 percent) say they've talked with their children about drugs, only 27 percent of teens -- roughly one in four -- say they're learning a lot at home about the risks of drugs, according to a new national study released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA).

"This percentage can be and should be much higher," said James E. Burke, chairman of the Partnership. "What's truly complicated about this, however, is that parents really believe they're doing their job in this area, but the data suggest otherwise."

The survey found drug use significantly lower among kids who've learned a great deal about drugs at home. In fact, teens who report getting the anti-drug message at home were 42 percent less likely to be using drugs. Released today via the Internet (at www.drugfreeamerica.org), the 1998 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) surveyed 9,919 preteens, teenagers and parents. The nationally projectable study, conducted for the Partnership by Audits & Surveys Worldwide Inc., found:

  • Teens who learn at home about the dangers of drugs are less likely to use drugs. (For example, among teens who learned nothing at home about the risks of drugs, 45 percent have used marijuana. Among teens who've learned a little, 33 percent have used. Among those who've learned a lot, 26 percent reported using the drug).
  • While virtually all parents (98 percent) say they've talked with their teenagers about drugs at least once, fewer teens (65 percent) recall the conversation. Less than half of all parents of teenagers (48 percent) reported talking with their teen about drugs regularly in the past year.
  • Fifty-three percent of parents with children in grades four through six talked with their child about drugs regularly in the past year.
  • Among parents of children this age who've talked with their children about drugs at least once, only half (50 percent) said they felt they discussed the subject thoroughly, a significant decline from 1997 (67 percent).
  • As children pass from the fourth to the eighth grade, the percentage of kids who say they want more guidance about drugs from their parents declines from 74 to 19 percent. "Clearly, there's a huge advantage in taking action when kids are most receptive to the message," Burke said.
  • As children pass from the fourth through the eighth grade, with fewer and fewer wanting their parent's advice on drugs along the way, the number of children experimenting with marijuana increases significantly, from three to 31 percent.
  • African-American parents (57 percent) are more likely to say they've talked with their children about drugs regularly than other parents (Hispanic, 45 percent; white, 44 percent). African-American (31 percent) and Hispanic (29 percent) teens are more likely to recall such conversations than white teens (19 percent).
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