Family Communication about Substance Abuse

Family communication about drug and alcohol use is one way in which parents can influence their children’s decisions about using substances. Although communicating to one’s children the reasons they should not use alcohol or drugs may not completely deter use, it is likely to prevent escalation into heavy or chronic use (Ennet et al., 2001).

Programs can track individual-level changes by looking at how scores on questionnaires change over time (at program intake, at intervals throughout the program, and at program exit). Programs should expect to find the percent of families engaged in frequent family communication (an aggregate-level performance measure) to occur before finding reduced levels of adolescent substance use. If there are no early signs that communication is increasing, a closer examination of program design, implementation and quality of service delivery may be necessary.

Sources Cited

Ennett, Susan T., Bauman, Karl E., Foshee, Vangie A., Pemberton, Michael, & Hicks, Katherine A. (2001). Parent-child communication about adolescent tobacco and alcohol use: What do parents say and does it affect youth behavior?.Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 48-62.