The Gift of a Good Influence

We all intuitively recognize relationships at home form the basis of successful and positive outcomes in life. Of course, there are some who defy the odds, and in spite of incredibly negative early experiences become positive influences in this world. 

Alina Baltazar and colleagues from Andrews University examined the dynamics of relationships between adolescents and their parents and the risk of using inhalants.

Inhalants are volatile substances whose chemical vapors can be deliberately inhaled for the purpose of a psychoactive effect or "high". While glue is probably the first substance that comes to mind, even common household products such as cooking spray, paint thinner, and even whipping cream is used by teens. Too often this kind of substance abuse can be fatal the first time, and is often under-reported.

Parents have powerful influences over their children's behavior. The quality of the relationship between parents and children influences many choices, including children's use of alcohol, smoking and illicit substances.

In 2008, 570 students in grades 7-9 in rural Idaho were surveyed. The majority of these were ages 13-14 and in the seventh and eight grades. 

In this group, 13.3% reported they had used inhalants at least once in their lifetime, and 5.6% stated they were regular users. Researchers found a generally consistent and significant statistical correlation between adolescent-parent relationships and inhalant use. Four categories of variables were examined:

  1. Household rules: Household rules had a small but significant impact on lifetime inhalant use. When families determine household  rules and make them known to the children it discourages substance abuse.
  2. Parental approval and bonding: Children whose parents approved of their achievements were less likely to use inhalants than those who did not feel approved by mom and dad.
  3. Parental monitoring of the rules: Children whose parents monitored their activities were much less likely to use inhalants than those who were not monitored. While clarity of rules is important, knowing the rules are being monitored seems to significantly improve compliance.
  4. Aggressive verbal interactions: Verbal aggression in the household was found to have a very significant impact on inhalant use–stronger than any of the others. When children reported verbally aggressive interactions within their families, they were much more likely to use inhalants. Arguing over the same issues, serious arguments, and insulting and yelling at each other all increased the likely hood of inhalant use.

Family interactions can be destructive or helpful to fostering a child's sense of worth and well-being. This holiday season give your family the precious gift of soft answers. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived wisely said: "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare" (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).