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Study Shows More Affectionate Parenting Decreases Risk of Teen Drug Use

How parents choose to rule the roost makes a significant difference in whether or not their adolescent child abuses drugs.

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A little too indulgent? Shutterstock

By Victoria Kim

06/17/14

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A new study has linked strict parenting to an increased risk of teen drug use. The research team, led by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention (IREFREA), interviewed 7,718 adolescents (3,774 males and 3,944 females) between ages 11 to 19 in six European countries, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.

The study, which was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, aimed to determine the type of parent-child relationship that produces the lowest risk of teens using alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis using two variables: parental control and affection.

The results suggested that indulgent and authoritative parenting models “work best, both for substance use and in personal disorders,”  as opposed to authoritarian and neglectful parenting. “From a global personal health perspective, the ‘authoritative’ and ‘indulgent’ parental styles equally protect against the use of drugs,” said lead researcher Amador Calafat.

The “indulgent” style is defined as being very emotional, while being “authoritative” is defined as giving clear rules and “affectionately and flexibly reason[ing] with the children when asking for their compliance.” The “authoritarian” style is similar to authoritative, in that both are demanding and controlling, but with less affection. The “neglectful” style is similar to indulgent, in that both are characterized by their low level of control, but these parents are scarcely affectionate.

“Our results support the idea that extremes are not effective: neither authoritarianism nor absence of control and affection. A good relationship with children works well. In this respect, it can go hand in hand with direct control (known as ‘authoritative’ or democratic style) or not (style wrongly called ‘indulgent’),” said Calafat.

“For self-esteem and school performance, it is still better when parents operate with the indulgent style,” Calafat added.

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