Page last updated: April 23, 2013
Authoritative mothers influence behaviour of teenagers’ friends
A longitudinal study of teens, their friends, and their friends’ families showed those with friends with authoritative mothers were less likely to binge drink (RR 0.49) or drink to the point of drunkenness (RR 0.46) compared with friends whose mothers were classed as ‘neglectful’, according to Holly Shakya, PhD, of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues. The authors studied whether the “benefits of good parenting spill over” between members of an adolescent’s social network through alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use outcomes by following 1,386 high school students and looking at over 2,000 (n=2,003 to 2,066) social connections and their social connections’ families over a 3-year period. Participants were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Style of parenting was assessed in a seven-question survey and quantified by measures of control - how much a parent intervened in their child’s life - and warmth - how much positive affect a parent showed their child.  These measures determined which category of parenting style a parent had, including authoritarian parents, who “exert control while lacking warmth”; authoritative parents, who are warm, communicate, and “exert appropriate control”; permissive parents, who show warmth but no control; and neglectful parents, who show neither warmth nor control. Students involved in the study were asked to name five male and five female friends. A subgroup of those were selected and followed-up in depth with questionnaires assessing social networks, health behaviours, family dynamics, and emotional development outcomes. Outcomes were controlled for age, race, sex, and mother’s self-reported income and education. Participants who had friends with authoritative mothers were significantly less likely to drink to the point of drunkenness or binge drink than teens whose mothers were neglectful. The same benefit was seen with cigarette smoking and marijuana use. When controlled for age, sex, race, and mother’s education and income, as well as school-level fixed effects, authoritative parenting from a friend’s mother retained a significant protective effect against binge drinking (aRR 0.62) smoking cigarettes (aRR 0.61), and drinking to drunkenness (aRR 0.60), and had a protective association against marijuana consumption (aRR 0.57). The authors state that, in addition to the positive effects on substance use and abuse, the authoritative parenting style was superior to others due to long-term benefits for the child, including academic success, positive peer relationships, minimal delinquent is, risk avoidance, and positive psychosocial adjustment, as well as a peer network that is less likely to be delinquent. They concluded that “positive parenting may benefit an adolescent’s friendship network either through a buffering effect via the adolescent’s positive psychological outcomes and behaviours and/or a direct contact effect with the friend’s parent.” Source reference: Shakya HB, et al “Parental influence on substance use in adolescent social networks” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2012; DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.1372.

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