Is Overly Strict Parenting Leading Teens to Use Drugs? Study Says Yes

A recent study across six European countries has found that certain parenting styles may lead to increased adolescent drug use, with overly strict and neglectful parents seeing the highest rates of drug use in their teens.

The study, recently published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, asked 7718 adolescents across Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic to classify their parents levels of control and affection. Based on their responses, parenting styles were organized into one of four categories: authoritarian (strict and unemotional), authoritative (strict, but affectionate), indulgent (lacking control but still affectionate), or neglectful (lacking control and lacking affection).

The results of the study found that teens raised under the authoritarian and neglectful models were also most likely to engage in use of marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol. Logically, these results make sense: It could be argued that teens raised in overly-strict, un-affectionate households seek a release or rebellion from the pressure of their parents, whereas those in neglectful households live without rules, and perhaps without guidance, leading them to experiment with drugs without fear of their parents’ reactions.

So how can we influence teens to not experiment with drugs and alcohol? “A good relationship with children works well,” says Amador Calafat, main author of the study. And the results give some insight into what that means. Interestingly, both parenting styles that included an affectionate or emotional presence resulted in lower drug use. Moral of the story: Having a warm and open relationship with your teens makes a big difference in their lives, and can help them make the best (and healthiest) decisions.

Keeping the gates of communication open with your teens will help them feel connected and informed, but we know that it can be awkward to talk about certain issues—just as much for you as for them. We encourage you to share Choices with your teens (covering topics from alcohol poisoning to synthetic marijuana to dating abuse, and everything in between) to arm them with facts, or keep reading TeenBeing for posts like Let’s Talk Before You Talk—which will help you find an uncomfortable-silence-proof way to talk to your teens about sex.

How do you talk to your teens about risky behaviors? Any great advice for how to discuss difficult topics? Let us know in the comments below!