Girls, Drugs and Parental Influence

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This series of posts is about drugs and young girls. 

We aren’t suggesting that anyone should ignore the issues of boys and drugs — boys certainly have potential to abuse drugs at an early age. But too often people think of drugs as a boys-only problem. And it is important to recognize that drug use is also an issue with unique consequences among young girls.

So, maybe you have asked yourself “What can parents do?”

A report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy lists several suggestions. Research shows that parents are the most important influence in their daughters’ decisions about drug use. So here are some recommendations for parents of young girls:

  • Parental trust is a powerful deterrent against risky behavior among female adolescents.
  • Parental disapproval of drug use plays a strong role in reversing drug use. Youth who felt their parents did not strongly disapprove of marijuana were about 6 times as likely to use it as those who felt their parents would disapprove. (Do your kids, both daughters and sons, know your position on drug use?)
  • Girls appear to be more sensitive to family conflict. When parenting quality declines, or when a teenage girl  gets high levels of negative emotion from parents or other family members, her capacity for coping and self-regulation may be overwhelmed by life stressors or challenges.

So, parents — there you go. Young women need your clear, unwavering support to say no to drugs, and that includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors and good friends.

Trust matters in preventing drug use among your girls (and boys). Studies repeatedly show that strong relationships matter the most. Make absolutely certain that you have clearly stated your values about drug use to your teenagers.

Spend time with them, talk often, listen closely to what they have to say. Inventory how your kids feel about the quality of your relationship. And if you suspect that drugs have become an issue, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice early.

This series of posts examines issues relating specifically to young girls and drug use. Previous posts have focused on girls and drugs in general, how drugs impair girls’ judgment, the impact of drug use on girls’ self-esteem, and some consequences of drug use. 

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.