"Long before it's in the papers"
January 27, 2015

RETURN TO THE WORLD SCIENCE HOME PAGE


Honesty may not be best policy when it comes to that talk about drugs

Feb. 27, 2013
Courtesy of the International Communication Association
and World Science staff

Be­ing hon­est with your kids about your past drug use may help you sleep bet­ter at night—but it should­n’t, a new study sug­gests.

That’s be­cause chil­dren who are the re­cip­i­ents of this brand of pa­ren­tal open­ness may be more likely to just go ahead and light that cig­a­rette or joint—even though youths tend to claim in sur­veys that they would re­spond pos­i­tively to can­did dis­clo­sures.

“Par­ents may want to re­con­sid­er wheth­er they should talk to their kids about times when they used sub­stances in the past,” said Jen­ni­fer A. Kam of the Uni­vers­ity of Il­li­nois at Urbana-Champaign, a co-author of the stu­dy. The re­search, by Kam and Ash­ley Mid­dle­ton, of MSO Health In­forma­t­ion Man­age­ment in Aus­tin, Tex­as, is pub­lished in the jour­nal Hu­man Com­mu­nica­t­ion Re­search.

Par­ents know that one day they will have to talk to their chil­dren about drug use, the re­search­ers said; the hard­est part is to de­cide wheth­er or not talk­ing about one’s own drug use will be use­ful in com­mu­ni­cat­ing an an­ti­drug mes­sage. 

Kam and Mid­dle­ton drew their their find­ings from sur­veys of 253 La­ti­no and 308 Eu­ro­pe­an Amer­i­can stu­dents from the sixth through eighth grades. The stu­dents re­ported on the con­versa­t­ions that they have had with their par­ents about al­co­hol, cig­a­rettes, and ma­ri­jua­na.

Past re­search found that teens re­ported that they would be less likely to use drugs if their par­ents told them about their own past drug use. In Kam and Mid­dle­ton’s stu­dy, how­ev­er, La­ti­no and Eu­ro­pe­an Amer­i­can chil­dren who re­ported that their par­ents talked about the neg­a­tive con­se­quenc­es, or re­gret, over their own past sub­stance use were ac­tu­ally less likely to re­port an­ti-sub­stance-use per­cep­tions. 

The find­ing means that when par­ents share their past sto­ries of sub­stance use, even when there is a learn­ing les­son, such mes­sages may have un­in­tend­ed con­se­quenc­es for early ad­o­les­cent chil­dren, the re­search­ers said.

Kam and Mid­dle­ton’s study iden­ti­fied spe­cif­ic mes­sages that par­ents can re­lay to their chil­dren about al­co­hol, cig­a­rettes, and ma­ri­jua­na that may en­cour­age an­ti-sub­stance-use per­cep­tions, and in turn, dis­cour­age ac­tu­al sub­stance use. For ex­am­ple, par­ents may talk to their kids about the neg­a­tive con­se­quenc­es of us­ing sub­stances, how to avoid sub­stances, that they dis­ap­prove of sub­stance use, the family rules against sub­stance use, and sto­ries about oth­ers who have got­ten in trou­ble from us­ing sub­stances.


* * *

Send us a comment on this story, or send it to a friend









 

Sign up for
e-newsletter
   
 
subscribe
 
cancel

On Home Page         

LATEST

  • St­ar found to have lit­tle plan­ets over twice as old as our own

  • “Kind­ness curricu­lum” may bo­ost suc­cess in pre­schoolers

EXCLUSIVES

  • Smart­er mice with a “hum­anized” gene?

  • Was black­mail essen­tial for marr­iage to evolve?

  • Plu­to has even cold­er “twin” of sim­ilar size, studies find

  • Could simple an­ger have taught people to coop­erate?

MORE NEWS

  • F­rog said to de­scribe its home through song

  • Even r­ats will lend a help­ing paw: study

  • D­rug may undo aging-assoc­iated brain changes in ani­mals

Being honest with your kids about your past drug use may help you sleep better at night—but it shouldn’t, a new study suggests. That’s because children who are the recipients of this brand of parental openness may be more likely to just go ahead and light that cigarette or joint—even though youths tend to claim in surveys that they would respond positively to candid disclosures. “Parents may want to reconsider whether they should talk to their kids about times when they used substances in the past,” said Jennifer A. Kam of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a co-author of the study. The research, by Kam and Ashley Middleton, of MSO Health Information Management in Austin, Texas, is published in the journal Human Communication Research. Parents know that one day they will have to talk to their children about drug use, the researchers said, and the hardest part is to decide whether or not talking about ones own drug use will be useful in communicating an antidrug message. Kam and Middleton drew their their findings from surveys of 253 Latino and 308 European American students from the sixth through eighth grades. The students reported on the conversations that they have had with their parents about alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Past research found that teens reported that they would be less likely to use drugs if their parents told them about their own past drug use. In Kam and Middleton’s study, however, Latino and European American children who reported that their parents talked about the negative consequences, or regret, over their own past substance use were actually less likely to report anti-substance-use perceptions. The finding means that when parents share their past stories of substance use, even when there is a learning lesson, such messages may have unintended consequences for early adolescent children, the researchers said. Kam and Middleton’s study identified specific messages that parents can relay to their children about alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana that may encourage anti-substance-use perceptions, and in turn, discourage actual substance use. For example, parents may talk to their kids about the negative consequences of using substances, how to avoid substances, that they disapprove of substance use, the family rules against substance use, and stories about others who have gotten in trouble from using substances.