WASHINGTON -- Teen-agers whose parents monitor the television they watch and the CDs they listen to are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs. Still, seven in 10 youths live in households where parents set few rules or none at all, an anti-drug research center said Wednesday.
"Parents should not look to Washington, or the statehouse or city hall. They ought to look in the mirror and say, 'What am I doing to fight drugs?"' said Joseph Califano, chairman of the Columbia University-based National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
"When you have a sensible set of expectations and rules, you are going to have teens with a much lower risk of using drugs."
Parental neglect "quadruples the likelihood their teens will smoke, drink or use drugs," Califano said in an interview Tuesday.
Edward Jurith, acting drug policy adviser to President Bush, commended the study, which Jurith said reflects his office's findings.
"Youth tell us that their parents can empower them to make healthy decisions about drugs," Jurith said in a statement. "Parents' words and actions are more effective than they may think in keeping their children away from drugs. The CASA study underscores that the struggle against illegal drugs is a continuous process of education and prevention."
The study shows a correlation between teens at low risk of abusing drugs and those who live in highly structured households.
Researchers said, however, the study does not demonstrate a direct cause and effect. Still, it said youth in "hands-off" households were twice as likely to abuse drugs as the average teen; and such youth with absentee parents were four times as likely to do so as children in highly structured "hands-on" homes.
In its sixth annual survey of teen-agers, the center focused for the first time on a parent's role in abetting teens' risky behavior. It also found that 61 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are at risk of abusing cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
The survey measures risk, not actual substance abuse: embarrassed teens might not be willing to fully report illegal or unacceptable behavior, researchers said.
Results are based on the telephone interviews of 1,000 teens, randomly chosen from a group representing the general population of youth ages 12 to 17.
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