Teen Smoking: How Parents Can Prevent It

Having involved parents -- those who know a lot about their children's friends, activities and performance in school -- can help children overcome peer influence to start smoking, according to a study by a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

The study also confirmed earlier findings that the more widespread children think smoking is, the more likely they are to start. Moreover, children who are socially competent -- who have the ability to exercise self-control and good judgment -- and have parents who monitor their behavior tend not to start smoking. The study, which was published in the December 2002 issue of Prevention Science, surveyed students in four middle schools in a suburban Maryland school district.

Why Parental Involvement Is Key

While researchers have known that both peers and parents play an important role in whether young teens and preteens start smoking, they've known less about whether the effects of peer influence on starting smoking is affected by other factors, such as parents' involvement and children's adjustment to school and degree of social competence.

"Many children start to experiment with smoking in early adolescence," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD. "Many then go on to develop a life-long addiction that can cause them serious health problems later in life. This study shows that by staying involved in their children's lives, parents can help them to avoid the smoking habit."

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