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The Roles of Development, Parents, and Peers in Adolescent Drug Abuse

Earlier, we discussed the statistics that place adolescents at risk for alcohol abuse. Researchers also have examined the factors that are related to drug use in adolescence, especially the roles of development, parents, peers, and schools.

Most adolescents become drug users at some point in their development, whether limited to alcohol, caffeine, and ciga­rettes, or extended to marijuana, cocaine, and hard drugs. A special concern involves adolescents using drugs as a way of coping with stress, which can interfere with the development of competent coping skills and responsible decision making. Researchers have found that drug use in childhood or early ado­lescence has more detrimental long-term effects on the devel­opment of responsible, competent behavior than when drug use occurs in late adolescence. When they use drugs to cope with stress, young adolescents often enter adult roles of marriage and work prematurely, with­out adequate socioemotional growth, and experience greater failure in adult roles.

How early are adolescents beginning drug use? National samples of eighth- and ninth-grade students were included in the Institute for Social Research survey of drug use for the first time in 1991. Early on in the increase in drug use in the United States (late 1960s, early 1970s), drug use was much higher among college students than among high school students, who in turn had much higher rates of drug use than middle or junior high school students. However, today the rates for college and high school students are similar, and the rates for young adolescents are not as dif­ferent from those for older adolescents as might be anticipated.

Parents, peers, and social support play important roles in preventing adolescent drug abuse. A developmental model of adolescent drug abuse has been proposed by Judith Brook and her colleagues. They believe that the initial step in adolescent drug abuse is laid down in the childhood years, when children fail to receive nur-turance from their parents and grow up in conflict-ridden fami­lies. These children fail to internalize their parents' personality, attitudes, and behavior, and later carry this absence of parental ties into adolescence. Adolescent characteristics, such as lack of a con­ventional orientation and inability to control emotions, are then expressed in affiliations with peers who take drugs, which, in turn, leads to drug use. In recent studies, Brook and her colleagues have found support for their model.

Positive relationships with parents and others are important in reducing adolescents' drug use. In one study, social support (which consisted of good relationships with parents, siblings, adults, and peers) during adolescence substantially reduced drug abuse. In another study, adolescents were most likely to take drugs when both of their parents took drugs (such as tranquilizers, amphetamines, alcohol, or nicotine) and their peers took drugs.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 429

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