In a finding that could gladden many parents of teens, a new study finds that teens who more openly express their own viewpoints are more likely than others to resist peer pressure to use drugs or drink.
Further, if a teen has a good relationship with peers and parents (even if contentious) they are more likely to stand up to peer challenges.
In the study, researchers looked at a diverse group of more than 150 teens and their parents, a group that was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically varied. The teens were studied at ages 13, 15, and 16 to gather information on substance use, interactions with moms, social skills, and close friendships.
Researchers used not just the youths’ own reports, but information from parents and peers. They also observed teens’ social interactions with family members and peers.
The University of Virginia study appears in the journal Child Development.
Investigators discovered teens who hold their own in family discussions were better at standing up to peer influences to use drugs or alcohol. Among the best protected were teens who had learned to argue well with their moms about such topics as grades, money, household rules and friends.
Arguing well was defined as trying to persuade their mothers with reasoned arguments, rather than with pressure, whining, or insults.
“The healthy autonomy they’d established at home seemed to carry over into their relationships with peers,” suggested Dr. Joseph P. Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study.
Researchers also discovered that teens who had formed good relationships with their parents and their peers were more likely to resist peer influences related to substance use.
“It may be that teens who are secure in their ability to turn to their mothers under stress are less likely to end up feeling overly dependent upon their close friends, and thus less likely to be influenced by their friend’s behavior when it’s negative,” said Allen.