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CASA 2000 Teen Survey: Teens With "Hands-off" Parents at Four Times Greater Risk of Smoking, Drinking and Using Illegal Drugs as Teens With "Hands-On" Parents

Only one in four teens in America (27 percent, about 6.5 million) lives with "hands-on" parents--parents who have established a household culture of rules and expectations for their teen's behavior and monitor what their teens do: such as the TV shows they watch, the CDs they buy, what they access on the Internet and where they are evenings and weekends.

These teens are at one quarter the risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs as teens with "hands-off" parents, according to a new survey of 1,000 American teens ages 12-17 released Feb. 21, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).

The 2000 CASA National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VI: Teens for the first time correlated each teen's risk of substance abuse with a series of 12 possible actions the teen attributed to his or her parents. "Hands-on" parents consistently take at least 10 of these actions. "Hands-off" parents take five or less. Nearly one in five teens (18 percent, about 4.3 million teens) lives with "hands-off" parents and is at four times the risk of substance abuse as teens with "hands-on" parents.

"The loud and clear message of the survey is this: moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals," said CASA President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. "Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs. They can counter negative media influences and the prevalence of marijuana and other drugs in a teen's world. Whatever the family structure, whether the teen lives with both parents, a single mom or a single dad, their risk of smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs in "hands-on" households is dramatically lower than that of the average teen."

The 12 actions against which parental conduct is measured are: monitor what their teens watch on TV; monitor what they do on the Internet; put restrictions on the CDs they buy; know where their teens are after school and on weekends; are told the truth by their teens about where they really are going; are "very aware" of their teen's academic performance; impose a curfew; make clear they would be "extremely upset" if their teen used pot; eat dinner with their teens six or seven nights a week; turn off the TV during dinner; assign their teen regular chores, and have an adult present when the teen returns from school.

Despite the conventional wisdom that many teens don't want their parents to establish rules and expectations the survey found that teens with "hands-on" parents are much more likely to have an excellent relationship with their parents than teens with "hands-off" parents:

  • 47 percent of teens living in "hands-on" households report an excellent relationship with their fathers; only 13 percent living in "hands-off" households do.
  • 57 percent of teens in "hands-on" households report an excellent relationship with their mother only 24 percent living in "hands-off" households do.

"It is time for every parent to look in the mirror rather than look outside to what everyone else can do," said Califano. "Parents should ask themselves: do I know where my teen is after school and on weekends? Have I set a curfew for my teen? Have I made it clear that I would be extremely upset if my teen used marijuana? Do I monitor what my teen watches on television and on the Internet, what CD's he or she buys and listens to? Do we have dinner together as a family six or seven times a week--without the television on? Parents need to ask themselves every day: 'What am I doing today to keep my kids drug-free?'"

For the sixth straight year, teens said drugs are their greatest concern. In 2000, 26 percent of teens cited drugs as their biggest concern, up from 23 percent in 1999. In 2000, fewer teens said they expected to never try an illegal drug (51 percent) than in 1999 (60 percent). For the first time, CASA asked the teens who said drugs were their biggest concern what it was about drugs that concerned them most: 31 percent said "drugs can ruin your life and cause harm," and 17 percent said "I feel peer pressure to use drugs." Only two percent were concerned about illegality.

In 2000, teens found cigarettes more difficult to buy and marijuana slightly easier to buy. As in 1999 CASA asked teens, "What was easiest to buy: cigarettes, marijuana or beer?" In 1999, 47 percent of teens said that cigarettes were easiest to buy; in 2000, it dropped to 33 percent. In 1999, 27 percent said marijuana was easiest to buy; in 2000, it rose to 33 percent.

For the first time, CASA asked teens about their proximity to Ecstasy:

Twenty-eight percent of teens know a friend or classmate who has used Ecstasy and 17 percent know more than one user. Ten percent of teens say they have been to a rave, and Ecstasy was available at 70 percent of these raves.

The survey was conducted by QEV Analytics. Interviews took place between October 20 and November 5, 2000. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

Published: Feb 23, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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