Adolescence: When Young People Use, Parents
New York Times, October 3, 2006
consistently and substantially underestimate
their children’s use of alcohol and other drugs,
a new study has found.
interviewed 591 adolescents ages 12 to 17 about
their drug and alcohol use and then questioned
at least one parent of each about what he or she
thought the children were using. The
analysis appears in the October issue of
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
consistently said they believed that their
children were using substances less frequently
than the children reported. Alcohol use was most
common, with 54.4 percent of the teenagers
reporting having consumed at least one drink in
their lifetimes, and 23.6 percent saying they
had been intoxicated. But only 30.5 percent of
parents believed that their children had ever
had a drink, and only 8.1 percent said their
children had ever been drunk.
While 44 percent
of the adolescents reported
smoking cigarettes, only 27 percent of their
parents knew they smoked.
Almost 23 percent
of the adolescents admitted to using marijuana,
while only 13.2 percent of their parents were
aware of it.
With drugs other
than marijuana, the results were similar: 8.5
percent of teenagers said they had used other
drugs, while 3.1 percent of parents knew it.
“Parents of 12-
and 13-year-olds had the lowest rates of
knowledge,” said Dr. Laura J. Bierut, the senior
author of the study and an associate professor
of psychiatry at
Washington University in St. Louis. “That’s
worrisome, because there is good evidence that
the younger you start to use substances, the
more likely you are to develop addiction.”
“Children are not
telling you about their drug use,” Dr. Bierut
added. “You have to ask. Kids have access to
drugs, they use them, and most parents are