If You Don’t Want Your Kids to Do Drugs, Chill Out a Bit

Photo: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images

There’s a reason we have so many memorable pop-culture portrayals of kids fighting back against stern adult figures — teenagers have a natural tendency to chafe at authority. But some new research from Europe suggests that the strictest parents are actually shooting themselves in the foot, since their kids will be more likely to fall into patterns of substance abuse.

An international team headed by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention interviewed 7,718 European kids between 11 and 19 years old. Applying the results to an established psychological model of four different parenting styles — authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent, and neglectful —  the researchers found that “the indulgent and authoritative models are those that work best, both for substance use and in personal disorders.” Authoritative sounds a bit like authoritarian, but while the authoritarian style is defined by strictness, authoritarian authoritative parents “give clear rules and affectionately and flexibly reason with the children when asking for their compliance,” as one of the researchers put it in the press release. Though the kids of authoritarian parents were more likely to do drugs, there’s also such a thing as too hands-off, of course: The neglectful parenting style produced similar results. 

The key takeaway is that those parents who are most obsessed with their kids not doing bad-kid stuff and who take the strictest approach to preventing that may be the ones most likely to drive kids straight toward those behaviors.

Don’t Want Your Kids to Do Drugs? Chill Out