-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- The connections youth have
with their teachers may help prevent kids from experimenting with
alcohol and drugs at an early age, a new study suggests.
The researchers found that students in middle school who felt
more emotional support from teachers had a lower risk of early
alcohol and illicit drug use. The students defined teacher support
as feeling close to a teacher or being able to discuss problems
with a teacher.
"Our results were surprising," Carolyn McCarty, of Seattle Children's Research Institute, said in an institute news release. "We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use."
Parental ties also mattered, according to the study. The
researchers explained that youth who are close to or who have
separation anxiety from their parents may be less susceptible to
negative peer influences, including experimentation with risky
behavior such as alcohol use.
"Teens in general seek new sensations or experiences and they take more risks when they are with peers," said McCarty, who is also a research associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Youth with separation-anxiety symptoms may be protected by virtue of their intense connection to their parents, making them less likely to be in settings where substance-use initiation is possible."
The study also found that middle school students who began using
alcohol and illicit drugs before sixth grade had significantly
higher levels of depressive symptoms, which suggests that
depression may be a consequence of very early use of alcohol or
drugs. It also may indicate that depression is a risk factor for
alcohol and drug use before middle school, the researchers
The findings from the study of 521 youth in Seattle public
schools appears online in the journal
Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
"Based on the study and our findings, substance-use prevention needs to be addressed on a multidimensional level," McCarty said. "We need to be aware of and monitor early adolescent stress levels, and parents, teachers and adults need to tune into kids' mental health. We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications."
Although the study found an association between close
relationships with teachers and parents and less risk of drug or
alcohol use in middle school students, it did not prove that those
relationships are the reason why those children were less likely to
use drugs or alcohol.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
offers advice on
parenting to prevent childhood alcohol use.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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