Featured Article: Finding the Links Between Parenting, Social Anxiety, and Adolescent Substance Use
November 30, 2017
Several studies have demonstrated connections between parenting and adolescent substance use, but many aspects of the relationship are not understood. In a forthcoming article in Development and Psychopathology, Methodology Center investigator Bridget Weymouth and her collaborators examine how social anxiety mediates the relationship between parenting and adolescent substance use.
While existing research has established the importance of parenting in early adolescent substance use, this study examined a less-studied pathway through which parenting might relate to substance use. Specifically, the authors theorized that nurturing parents might decrease levels of social anxiety, which in turn, increases youths’ confidence that they can refuse peers’ offers to use substances. Bridget has a strong research interest in social anxiety and its co-occurrence with substance use. She said, “We know from previous research that substance use rates are high among individuals with elevated social anxiety; however, links between social anxiety and substance use over time, and the processes that might explain these links, are less clear. In this study, we were interested in exploring how social anxiety might undermine a key protective factor against substance use: youth’s efficacy to refuse substances when offered by friends.”
A striking finding of this study was that paternal warmth was associated with higher social anxiety and lower substance use refusal self-efficacy at a later time, but maternal warmth was not associated with social anxiety or self-efficacy. Bridget said, “Our findings suggest that fathers who are warm and supportive play a unique role in preparing youth to navigate the peer context confidently and successfully. This sets the stage for how youth will handle substance use in the peer context, and ultimately, the frequency of their substance use. It will be important to see these results replicated in the future.” These results indicate that nurturing parents may protect adolescents from substance use risk through multiple mechanisms.
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