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The Influence of Parenting Styles: Cigarette Smoking, Recreational Drugs and Alcohol Use among Teenagers

Updated on April 3, 2013

Parental Influence

Studies have shown that the way parents interact with their children can have a strong influence on their teenager’s involvement with cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and recreational drugs. Parents who smoke or drink alcohol regularly are far more likely to have children who smoke, drink, or engage in recreational drug use. Children in families where alcohol and cigarettes are readily available are much more likely to have been exposed to role-models who rely on chemicals to alter their moods. The parents in these families have difficulty encouraging their children to abstain from these types of practices because in the eyes of their children they often lack credibility.

By stating these parents lack credibility I am referring specifically to parents not being considered credible by their teenagers as advocates for abstinence from cigarettes or alcohol. Some teenagers may also consider the use of alcohol as a sign that the use of any mood altering substance is acceptable. Parents may be somewhat more credible as anti-drug advocates if they refrain from using recreational drugs; however their kids are still more likely to use recreational drugs than the children of parents who don't smoke or drink.

Another important measure of whether children engage in cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or recreational drug use is the style of parenting in the home. Different styles of parenting are characterized by specific parenting approaches that affect the degree of involvement parents have with their kids, the type of relationships they have with them, and the degree and measures of discipline used. The differences in these approaches can also impact upon the choices that teens make in their lives. While there are other factors that affect teen cigarette, alcohol, and drug use kids (such a peer influence) this article with focus on parenting styles because it is something parents can have come control over and many parents fear having an out-of-control teen.

Parenting Styles

Many experts suggest there are three main parenting styles, which are referred to as Authoritarian Parenting, Authoritative Parenting, and Permissive Parenting. In families with an Authoritarian Parenting Style the parents tend to be very inflexible and rigid. Authoritarian Parents almost exclusively focus on the use of coercion and power to discipline their children and rely heavily on the use of punishment. Think of a family that is run by a very strict disciplinarian who expects complete and total compliance with rules and regulations. There is little respect for or tolerance of any form of dissent or disagreement in this type of family. Parents are in charge and children are required to do as they are told without question. Children in these families often have limited choices; as a result, they tend to assert their need for power and autonomy by acting out or engaging in rebellious underground behavior when their parents are not present. Children whose parents have an Authoritarian Parenting Style are more likely to be bullied and ridiculed in their own home, and therefore are more likely to become bullies themselves.

The Permissive Parenting Style tends to be characterized by no organized structure, inconsistent rules and expectations, and poorly defined boundaries and limits. When things don’t go well, permissive parents tend to be taken by surprise or in some cases simply choose not to care. When parents exhibit a Permissive Parenting Style the children often seem to be in charge or are simply left to get by on their own. When I think of permissive families I am reminded of the Bizzaro cartoon where an out of control child is hanging from the chandelier and the mother says to a friend that she will let society socialize him later. Families with a Permissive Parenting Style are characterized by inconsistent discipline and a lack involvement by parents in their children’s lives.

Families with an Authoritative Parenting Style, on the other hand, provide structure for children in a supportive and flexible way, allowing the child to be expressive and feel more confident and secure in the world. Experts believe that children from families with Authoritarian Parenting will have their feelings and self-expression squashed and suppressed while parents in Permissive Families are likely to neglect and fail to nurture the unique nature of their children. Kids from families with an Authoritative Parenting style, in contrast, receive a good balance of structure and freedom, and therefore adjust better to the challenges in life. The Authoritative Parenting style is characterized by parental involvement in the lives of children, reliance on limited choices, high expectations and respect for limits and boundaries. Parents in these families hold their children in high regard and encourage and support their kids to be involved in creating rules and expectations. Parents enforce rules and set limits but do so without the overt use of force. Instead, parents in families with an Authoritative parenting style enforce limits by relying on natural and logical consequences to help children learn from their mistakes.

Parenting Styles and Influence Parents have on Teenagers

Children in homes with an Authoritative Parenting Style are more likely to abstain from cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and recreational drug use. This is mainly the result of three key factors: Parents who have high expectations, parents who have a high degree of involvement in their teen’s lives, and parents who hold their adolescent children in high positive regard, are more likely to be able to influence their children to avoid smoking drinking or using drugs.

Parents who have an Authoritarian Parenting Style may have high expectations but they are less likely than authoritative parents to have meaningful involvement in their teenager’s lives or to hold their children in high regard. Authoritarian parents are less likely to have a high degree of knowledge about their teenage teenager’s choice of friends, their activities, or any of their other interests because they have a less open two-way communication with their children. Their kids are also less likely to believe their authoritarian parents hold them in high regard. Parents who use and Authoritarian Parenting Style are less likely to respect their teen’s opinions, less likely to listen to what their teens have to say, and are less likely to have an open discussion with them about why they want them to abstain from cigarette, alcohol, and recreational drug use. Teens in authoritarian families are also more likely to hide and lie about this type of behavior when they do make a mistake out of fear of being harshly punished.

Parents who have a Permissive Parenting Style may have high expectations but are less likely to be taken seriously by their teens because they usually lack follow through. Permissive parents tend to have less involvement with their teens as well, usually letting them make their own choices and decisions, and therefore having little knowledge about their teenager's friends or activities. As a result, these parents are less likely to be perceived as holding their children in high regard because their interactions with them are limited. They may believe they think highly of their kids but are less likely to engage in conversations that indicate they have respect for their teenagers and that show they take them seriously. Permissive parents are also less likely to have an open discussion regarding the reasons they want their teenager's to abstain from cigarette smoking, alcohol use or recreational drug use.

Parents with an Authoritative Parenting Style are far more likely to be able to influence abstinence from cigarette, alcohol and drug use in their teens. They are also more likely to rank highly in all three factors. Authoritative parents are likely to have high expectations for their teen’s behaviour, are more likely to set clear boundaries and limits, and are more likely to respond effectively when their child does make a poor choice. They are also more likely to be aware of the things going on in their adolescent’s life; this means knowing who their teen’s friends are, what their activities and interests are, and how they are spending their free time. Further, authoritative parents are likely to engage in the types of open and honest conversations with their children that show a high degree of respect and regard for their children. They are more liable to openly discuss the reasons they don’t want their children smoking, drinking, or using drugs and are equally likely to listen to what their teens have to say and to respect their opinions.

Choose a style that works

Thinking about the way you parent your children can have an impact on their development and growth throughout the stages of their life. Being aware of your own Style of Parenting can help you assess whether or not the way you parent your child is possibly too strict or too relaxed. Parenting teens well means being involved in many areas of their lives, respecting and supporting them to make good choices,  setting clear boundaries and limits, and letting them know we care about them by having high expectations. If we follow through in ways that are supportive, open, and meaningful, our teens will be more likely to respond favorably to our influence.


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