Teenagers are famous for talking back to their parents and rebelling against authority. New research from the University of Virginia suggests that children who express their opinions, even if their parents disagree with those opinions, are more likely to resist peer pressure for drugs and alcohol better than children who do not openly express their opinions.
Communication Key Indicator
In a study entitled Predictors of Susceptibility to Peer Influence Regarding Substance Use in Adolescence, the researchers studied 150 children ages 13, 15 and 16. They spoke with the child and their parents, along with their peers, about the activities of the child. The children who were allowed to engage in conversations with their mothers regarding their opinions had lower rates of substance abuse and alcohol use than those who were unable to express opinions.
The children who were allowed to defend their opinions to their mothers frequently learned social skills and tools to resist peer pressure. The use of communication in constructive discussions with mothers empowered the children’s social abilities in difficult situations.
Many parents of teenagers are familiar with their child slamming doors and appearing frustrated. The child will scream and yell, making the parent feel bad for the child. Yet, the parents are unable to help, as they don’t know what is troubling the child. The lack of communication between parent and child may create tension in the house. However, many of these teens are trying to open dialogues about opinions, which parents may be resistant to speaking about. Decoded Science asked lead researcher David Allen about this phenomenon in parent-child relationships. He commented,
“This is exactly the issue. What we found was that disagreeing with parents, if done in a reasonable, polite manner, predicts being LESS influenced by one’s peers. However, rudely pressuring, whining, threatening, yelling, etc. did NOT lead to any positive results (nor did they make kids more easily influenced by peers)…these rude behaviors had other consequences (teens who used those behavior were less likely to have good friendships to begin with).”
Decoding Science. One article at a time.