Doom and gloom headlines might sell papers and generate clicks, but here’s some good news – teens are still influenced by their parents!
New findings from a survey of more than 40,000 Australian teenagers over a 15-year period show substantial reductions in their use of alcohol and other substances, and a similar trend has appeared here in Britain. It’s not like peer pressure to indulge in risky behaviour has disappeared altogether, but today’s teenagers may be more likely to be encouraged by friends to go on a 'juice crawl' or visit one of the new 'sober bars' than get drunk.
One of the driving factors appears to be parent attitudes to drinking, which in turn are related to messages directed at parents about health-related risks. Parents reportedly are reducing teenagers’ access to alcohol by being less likely to provide alcohol at a party.
Another survey that undertook to provide a current snapshot of the drinking habits and influences of teenagers came up with similar findings, with the lead researcher commenting “surprisingly, the results showed young people did pay attention to what their parents thought about alcohol”.
IT ALL ADDS UP
One of the especially promising findings is there seems to be an accumulation of effects. As increasing numbers of young people and their parents get the message about the health risks associated with alcohol, a peer group effect is also created, and thus there’s a reduction in peer pressure to drink alcohol.
BUT READ THE FINE PRINT
Another thing to take from this research is the logical extension – it’s not just about alcohol.
One message that may not be quite as welcome is that being a good role model is very important. So it’s not just what parents say about alcohol – it’s what they do that counts more!
Parents continue to be a major influence on their children on a range of topics well into the teenage years, but setting a good example isn’t something you can just switch on suddenly as the teenage hormones make their appearance. It’s about creating a sustained, consistent lifestyle and values that permeate family life and create a powerful, lasting influence throughout children’s lives.
So the counterpoint to this good news is that parents need to monitor their own behaviour – what they say and do – especially when children are around. That’s not to say that a ‘better late than never’ decision won’t have some impact – it’ll just take longer and the ride might have more bumps.
YOU’RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Still, the overall message is one to feel positive about! Although there might be times when you wonder and worry about your teenager, just the fact that you’re reading this shows you care about how you’re doing as a parent.
Teenagers are influenced by parents’ views, despite the fact that as they get older, there’s more influence from peers. The more parents take this message on board and act on it, the more the peer group will pull in the same direction.