Pubdate: Mon, 30 Aug 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: David Ho, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Teen-agers who don't get along with their fathers in
two-parent families are more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs than those
raised by single mothers, according to a new survey that examines how
different family types affect youth substance abuse.

Children raised by their mothers alone were 30 percent more likely to use
drugs than those living in supportive two-parent homes. But those with two
parents who have poor relationships with their fathers have a 68 percent
greater risk, said a report today by the private National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

"This should be a wakeup call for dads across America," CASA Chairman Joseph
Califano said in a statement. "Every father should look in the mirror and
ask: 'How often do I eat meals with my children? Take them to religious
services? Help them with their homework?"'

In the survey of 2,000 youths aged 12 to 17 and 1,000 parents, more than
twice as many teens said they found it easier to talk to their mothers than
their fathers about drugs. More than 70 percent said they had very good or
excellent relationships with their mothers, but only 58 percent said they
got along as well with their fathers.

Mothers influence their children's important decisions three times as often
as fathers and are more likely to have private talks about drugs, the study

"Too often, people think of the parenting role as the mother's job, and this
reminds us that the family is the children, the mother and the father where
possible," said Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance
Abuse Treatment at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Clark advised parents to take the survey results as a "back-to-school"
reminder. Parents should be supportive and ask questions instead of making
accusations and giving orders, he said.

Speaking to children about drugs should start early because "the opportunity
for parents to impact their teen's thinking about illegal drugs diminishes
as the teen gets older," the survey's authors said. They found that 34
percent of 12-year-olds reported excellent relationships with their parents,
but that number plummets to just 14 percent by the time the children turn 17.

"Parent power may be the greatest underutilized resource in our nation's
battle to give our children the will and skills to say no to drugs," said
Califano, a former U.S. secretary of health, education and welfare.

Confirming recent studies that overall youth substance abuse has leveled
off, the survey found that 40 percent of teens said the drug situation at
school is getting worse, down from 55 percent in 1998. And more teens, 60
percent, said they don't expect to use a drug in the future, an increase of
9 percentage points since 1998.

Parents were more pessimistic, with 45 percent thinking their children will
someday use drugs.

Califano said this "parental resignation often reflects their own drug-using
behavior" and that of those parents who had tried marijuana themselves 58
percent and thought their kids would try as well.

The study also found that while the teen-agers said facing drugs was their
most important problem, the parents ranked drugs second, after the social
pressure of "fitting in" with their peers.

The survey also found:

- --Teens who reported their fathers have more than two drinks a day have a 71
percent greater risk of substance abuse.

- --Nearly 90 percent of teens said they felt safe in school.

- --More than half said they attended a school where drugs were used and 20
percent said that if they wanted to buy marijuana they could get it in less
than a half-hour.

- --Almost half of teens who had never used marijuana credited their parents
with their decision.

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