Parental Support and Youth Substance Use Prevention

written by: Logan Yelderman, MA
Families serve as primary agents of socialization. When people are born, they are first taught the values and norms of culture, predominantly by their families. They are taught to share, not to hurt others, and how to negotiate social situations. These values and skills are instilled in children and taught to them throughout adolescence and into adulthood. The influence of family on psychosocial development and socialization is critical in the lives of youth. Communicating information about substance use and abuse is part of this socialization process, and families play a significant role. For instance, when youth reported that their parents would strongly disapprove of their use of marijuana and alcohol, they were less likely to use those substances. This suggests that youth socialized by parents who oppose drugs and alcohol actually internalize these values and behave accordingly.
Sometimes, parents participate in supportive and monitoring behaviors, actively communicating with youth about the dangers of substance use. Youth with parents who engaged in these types of behaviors abused substances less frequently than youth with parents who did not engage in these types of behaviors. Similarly, communication about substance use between parents and youth can reduce the likelihood of drug use by more than 40 percent. Through socialization, parents can instill values and beliefs related to substance use that have a direct impact on youths’ behavior and their life trajectories. Simply believing that substance use is dangerous can reduce the likelihood that youth will use drugs or drink alcohol. 
For the reasons stated above, it is critical for parents to be involved in the lives of juvenile drug court (JDC) youth and communicate important messages about substance use and abuse. It is equally important for parents of JDC youth to participate actively in the JDC program with the youth. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has numerous resources on how to engage appropriately parents in juvenile JDCs, which can be found here
For more information on National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, click here.