A group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign questioned 561 middle school students about conversations they had with their parents regarding drinking, smoking, and marijuana.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the children were less inclined to perceive drugs as bad if their parents had shared stories of past drug and alcohol use with them.
Other students whose parents just shared with them an anti-drug message without pointing out their own histories, were more likely to not take drugs.
The study, led by assistant professor of communication Jennifer Kam, also found that youths who documented that their parents talked about the negative outcomes of their past substance use, were less likely to report anti-substance use perceptions.
This implies that even sharing past stores when there is a lesson learned, may cause unintended repercussions for young kids.
The authors point out that the parents who admit to using drugs may actually be sabotaging the negative detail they are trying to make.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, author Jennifer Kam said:
"We are not recommending that parents lie to their early adolescent children about their own past drug use. Instead, we are suggesting that parents should focus on talking to their kids about the negative consequences of drug use, how to avoid offers, family rules against use, that they disapprove of use, and others who have gotten in trouble from using."
The study was based on data of 308 white students and 253 Hispanic students from the sixth through eighth grades. The investigators chose to survey these particular kids because they have the highest levels of marijuana and alcohol use in the eighth grade.
The kids filled out broad surveys that consisted of questions about their feelings towards drugs, whether they used them, and what type of messages their parents were giving them.
Previous research has suggested parents should reveal their previous drug use to their children. Studies have emphasized that those who are not able to share, may not possess the credibility required to tell kids to avoid drugs and alcohol.
In conclusion Kam said to the HuffPost:
"Parents may want to reconsider whether they should talk to their kids about times when they used substances in the past and not volunteer such information. Of course, it is important to remember this study is one of the first to examine the associations between parents' references to their own past substance use and their adolescent children's subsequent perceptions and behaviors."