Does Lack of Parental Supervision Cause Drug Addiction?

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that as of June 2011, 1.6 million high school students had substance abuse disorders involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs 1. Of those who began smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs before the age of 18, one in four are addicted, compared to one in 25 who began to smoke, drink or use other drugs at age 21 or later. Parental supervision can play a role in whether teens use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

Parental Drug Abuse

Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol often have little time, desire or energy to take care of their children. Children who grow up in households where there is substance abuse often do not have their basic needs for food, shelter and security met by their parents. Such children are likely to be unsupervised or receive little supervision, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Children in these families are at high risk of becoming substance abusers themselves, whether because they mimic the behaviors of the adults around them or because they use substances to cope with traumatic events.

Parenting Style

Family dynamics and parenting style can have an impact on substance use and addiction in teens, according to the Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK). Lack of parental supervision and lack of parental involvement are among the top ten causes of drug addiction in teens, according to ASK. When teens do not have a close parental relationship or receive little monitoring or supervision, they are at higher risk for addiction. Related risk factors include high levels of family conflict, unrealistic parental expectations and inconsistent or severe punishment.

Parental Monitoring

Parental monitoring -- the extent to which parents watch over and supervise their children -- can affect both adolescent substance abuse and the choice of peers who might also use substances, according to an article in the November 2005 “Journal of Primary Prevention.” The researchers studied the relationships between various family dynamics or attributes and the influence of peers on a teen’s decision to drink or use other substances 3. The study found that although parental drug attitudes, sibling drug use and adult drug use had the biggest effect on a teen’s decision to use and abuse various substances, parental monitoring did have a significant but small effect. The researchers theorized that lack of parental monitoring might also influence the choice of friends who use or abuse drugs.

Parenting Style

Parenting style is a combination of two components, responsiveness and demandingness, according to Dr. Maryann Rosenthal, a clinical psychologist and author of “Be a Parent, Not a Pushover.” One style of parenting -- the uninvolved parent -- is low in both aspects 2. Uninvolved parents demand nothing and give nothing, even to the point of actual neglect. Uninvolved parents do not provide supervision or guidance. Rosenthal says teens with uninvolved or “hands-off’ parents have a 75 percent greater risk of drug abuse than those from “hands-on” households. An article published in the October 2012 “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine” reported that children of neglectful mothers were more likely to binge drink, binge drink to the point of drunkenness, use tobacco or use marijuana 3.

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