Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jul 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: Martha Irvine, AP National Writer
Bookmark: (Youth)


Sixth to 12th graders who live in single-dad homes are more likely than 
others to use drugs, according to a survey released Thursday.

The survey, done by a division of an Atlanta-based anti-drug organization, 
also found that high schoolers' use of such drugs as heroin, Ecstasy, and 
marijuana increased -- reversing a three-year decline in overall drug use. 
Meanwhile, cigarette and alcohol use dropped to a 13-year low.

The survey was conducted at schools which contracted with PRIDE Surveys -- 
an arm of the Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education -- to question 
students during the 2000-2001 academic year. More than 75,000 students 
nationwide answered questionnaires anonymously, using pencils to fill in 
circles on a double-sided answer sheet.

This was the 14th annual survey but officials said it was the first time 
their group broke down the numbers to look at children who live with their 
mothers only, fathers only, and stepparents.

The survey found that 38.4 percent of students who lived with their fathers 
only said they used drugs. The percentages for other family structures 
were: father and stepmother, 31.9 percent; mother and stepfather, 29.8 
percent; mother only, 28.3 percent; and both parents, 20.4 percent.

Thomas Gleaton, who headed the study, said the results aren't meant to bash 
fathers. "I don't want people to think, 'Oh that means these are bad 
fathers,"' said Gleaton, president of PRIDE Surveys.

Rather, Gleaton believes the results are a comment on the importance of a 
mother's role. "The farther the mother gets away, the more difficult it 
becomes for the child," Gleaton said.

A spokesman for a group that lobbies for fathers' rights said he had no 
problem with the survey's findings.

"This is just one more argument why -- absent of abuse, neglect or 
abandonment -- there should be mandatory joint custody. Children need both 
parents," said Stuart Miller, senior legislative analyst for the American 
Fathers Coalition.

A survey of teens released in February by the National Center on Addiction 
and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that the risk of drug 
abuse was slightly higher for children living with single moms than with 
single dads. It also found drug use was greatly reduced in both types of 
homes when the parents were "hands on," or supervised their teen-agers and 
imposed rules.

In terms of drug use, the new survey found that 35.3 percent of ninth- to 
12th-graders said they had used any illicit drug in the last year, compared 
with 34.3 percent in 1999-2000.

Gleaton said the increase was statistically significant but added that he 
was not alarmed because a one-year increase does not necessarily point to a 

He did, however, note that drug use among junior high students increased 
only slightly from 13.6 percent to 13.7 percent _ something he credited to 
focusing anti-drug campaigns on that age group.

Calling for stepped-up anti-drug campaigns at the high school level, 
Gleaton noted that similar efforts against drinking and cigarettes also 
have been successful. The survey found that 52.1 percent of all students 
said they had used alcohol in the last year, a low not seen since 1987-88. 
Cigarette use dropped to 30.5 percent, continuing a downward trend that 
began in 1997-98.

"When we as a nation decide to make a change and improve the health, I 
think we can do that," Gleaton said.

But Michael Newcomb, a psychologist and co-director of the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse research center at UCLA, cautioned against 
accepting the results of a nonrandom survey. He said random surveys -- 
particularly the long-standing, federally funded "Monitoring the Future" 
youth survey -- provide less biased results because the participants don't 
self select.

Newcomb said the latest results from that survey show an increase in use of 
Ecstasy and non-injected heroin among older teens. But there was little 
change in the use of other drugs, including marijuana.

Officials at the White House's Office on National Drug Control Policy say 
they use the PRIDE survey as a supplement to such random national 
questionnaires as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, set for 
release in late August.

"The PRIDE findings reinforce what we already know: youth with strong 
parental influences and access to local support networks are much less 
likely to use illegal drugs," Edward Jurith, acting director of the ONDCP, 
said in a statement.
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