Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Adolescent Cannabis Use: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

In an interesting study recently made available in Addictive Behaviors, researchers found that parents’ beliefs about their children’s cannabis use could predict whether they began using one year later. It turns out, parents’ predictions, while highly variable and often wrong, could work in their favor – or against them, depending on the response: kids were more likely to begin smoking cannabis if their parents had wrongly assumed they already were. What’s more, kids were more likely to cease smoking if their parents had wrongly assumed they didn't smoke. Turns out, the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is alive and well in our nation’s high schools.

Data for the study was analyzed from the National Survey of Parents and Youth (N=3131). In the survey, youth (ages 12-17) were asked about past-year marijuana use (T1). In addition, one parent of each respondent was asked about what they thought was their child’s past-year use. One year later (T2), investigators followed up with the same questions.

Researchers found that youth who were abstinent at T1 were significantly more likely to be smoking by T2 if their parents wrongly believed them to be. On the other hand, youth who were smoking at T1 were more likely to stop smoking by T2 if their parents wrongly believed that they hadn't been smoking. Interestingly, children who were using at T1 tended to increase their use by T2 if their parents had originally expressed belief that they were using marijuana at T1.

While the authors caution that "these results don't counsel a Pollyanna-like approach to child rearing," the do argue that the influence a parent can have on their children can be both "profound" and delivered in a host of subtle ways. "The lesson also counsels considerably greater communication between parents and their children about drug use," They write. Just be careful before jumping to any conclusions.

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