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National Survey Finds Parents Underestimate Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use by Youth

August 17, 2006

Research Summary
Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR)
Tel: 301-405-9770
Fax: 301-403-8342

Parents dramatically underestimate alcohol and illicit drug use by youth, according to data from the most recent national Pride surveys of parents and students.

One-fifth (21%) of students in 6th grade reported that they had drunk alcohol at least once in the past year. Yet only 5% of parents said that their 6th grade child has tried or is using alcohol.

While the gap between students’ self-reported use and parents’ perceptions of their own children’s use narrows with age, parents continue to significantly underestimate alcohol use by youth.

More than two-thirds of 12th graders reported past year alcohol use, while only 41% of parents thought that their 12th grade child had used alcohol.

Similar results were found for illicit drug use. For example, 36% of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs at least once in the past year, while 15% of parents reported that their 12th grade child used drugs.

Recent research has shown that early alcohol use increases the likelihood of developing alcohol dependence at a later age.

For details, including data charts, source information and caveats, download the PDF file at www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/cesarfax/vol15/15-31.pdf.

Reprinted from CESAR Fax, a weekly, one-page overview of timely substance abuse trends or issues, from The Center on Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland.