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 National study ties teen transitions to alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, driving habits, and mental health

    BOSTON, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Almost half of America's high school teens report parental inattention to what they consider to be key transitions during their adolescence, according to a new SADD/Liberty Mutual study released today. The study suggests that this lack of timely parental involvement in
important "rites of passage" comes with a high price tag: the potential for
dangerous behaviors that can lead to illness, injury, or death as teens seek
alternative milestones to demonstrate growing maturity and independence.
    The sixth annual Teens Today report reveals that high school teens whose
parents pay the least attention to significant transition periods (42
percent), such as puberty, school change, and key birthdays, are more likely
than teens whose parents pay the most attention (18 percent) to engage in
high-risk behaviors, including drinking, drug use, early sexual intercourse,
and dangerous driving.  They are more than twice as likely to report daily
stress and appear to be twice as likely to report being depressed and bored.
    "In a culture largely devoid of formal 'rites of passage,' and too often
unobservant of the few that exist, young people may make up their own.  Far
too frequently they include drinking, drugging, and other potentially
destructive behaviors," said Stephen Wallace, chairman and chief executive
officer of the national SADD organization.  "By paying attention to the
important transitions of adolescence, parents can make it less likely that
poor choices will become their child's self-constructed mileposts along the
path to adulthood."
    Other important transitions cited by teens included receiving a driver's
license, obtaining their first car, graduating from high school, and dating a
first boyfriend or girlfriend.

Alcohol, Drugs and Sex
    Teenagers in the ninth through 12th grades who report high levels of
parental attention (defined as communicating about and recognizing or
celebrating important adolescent "life events") are significantly less likely
than those who report low levels of parental attention to use alcohol and
marijuana or to have ever illegally used prescription drugs.

    Teen Risky Behaviors by Parental Attention

                                Low Attention                High Attention
    Alcohol                             36                            17
    Marijuana                         16                             3
    Prescription Drugs          28                             5

    The data also shows that these teens are more likely to delay sexual
intercourse and some other sexual behaviors.

Safer Behind the Wheel
    The Teens Today research highlights the effect of parental attention on
another significant teen rite of passage: driving.  Teen drivers who report
high levels of parental attention are significantly more likely than those who
report low levels of parental attention to say they never speed (45 percent to
14 percent).  The data also suggests that these teens are more likely to wear
seat belts while driving and are less likely to drive while impaired or to
ride in a car with an impaired driver.
    "It is clear from this exciting new research that adequately noting the
important times in their children's lives -- such as the transition to driving
age -- is a necessary, and potentially life-saving, exercise," said Paul
Condrin, Liberty Mutual executive vice president, Personal Market.  "Motor
vehicle crashes are the number-one killer of young people ages 15 to 20 in
this country, and a large number of these deaths -- 38 percent of males and 25
percent of females -- involve speeding," he added, citing 2004 statistics from
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Mental Health
    Teens in the low parental attention category appear to be more than twice
as likely to report regularly feeling stressed, depressed, and bored.
Conversely, teens in the high parental attention category are significantly
more likely to say they feel happy every day or almost every day.

    Teen Emotional States by Parental Attention

                              Low Attention                High Attention
    Stressed                         29                          11
    Depressed                     21                          11
    Bored                              25                          11
    Feeling Happy               49                          83

What Changed
    American culture has been largely stripped of the formal demarcations of
significant life changes that marked passage for earlier generations and still
form the basis for transition and celebration in other cultures.  Seeking
affirmation of growth and movement toward maturity, many young people then
create their own demarcations involving alcohol and other drug use, early and
intimate sexual behavior, and dangerous driving -- traditions that leave them
at risk.

 Why This Is Important for Families
    Teens Today research makes clear the incredibly influential role that
parents can play in guiding their teenage children toward safe, healthy
choices.  SADD and Liberty Mutual provide tools to help parents in this cause:
Three Tips for Teen Transitions and Guidelines for Good Family Communication
are available at http://www.sadd.org and
http://www.libertymutualinsurance.com.  Additional key findings from this
year's Teens Today study also are available online.

    Atlantic Research and Consulting, a division of FIND/SVP, conducted in-
depth interviews with teens in Phoenix and focus groups and in-depth
interviews in Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Houston, and Miami.  The
findings in the report are based on the completion of 1,968 online interviews
(984 parents and a corresponding teenager for each parent).  Survey results
for each group (teen and parent) can be interpreted at a 95% confidence
interval with +/- 3% error margin.  Analyses of survey subgroups are subject
to wider error margins.  Percentages in the report may add to more or less
than 100% due to rounding error or occasions when multiple response answers
were accepted.  Minor statistical weighting was applied to the teen data.

Research Partners
    SADD, Inc. (Students Against Destructive Decisions) is the nation's
preeminent peer-to-peer youth education organization, with thousands of
chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges.  With a mission of
preventing destructive behaviors and addressing attitudes that are harmful to
young people, SADD sponsors programs that address issues such as underage
drinking, substance abuse, impaired driving, and teen violence, depression,
and suicide.
    Liberty Mutual Group is a leading global multi-line group of insurance
companies whose largest line of business is private passenger auto, based on
2004 net written premium.  "Helping people live safer, more secure lives"
since 1912, Liberty Mutual is the eighth-largest personal lines writer and
fifth-largest commercial lines writer in the U.S., based on 2004 direct
written premium.

    Deborah Burke Henderson (SADD)      Glenn Greenberg (Liberty Mutual)
    +1-877-SADD-INC                                +1-617-574-5874