In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers examine the role of parental influence on the adoption of smoking behaviours in adolescents. The results suggest that the level of parental engagement in the lives of their children influences the adoption of smoking behaviours in their teens.
There are significant health repercussions to smoking. The increased risk of strokes, coronary heart disease, and lung cancer are often cited as smoking-related diseases that significantly decrease life expectancy. In order to deter the adoption of smoking behaviours in adolescents, researchers conducted a study to explore the effect of parenting on smoking in teens. In particular, researchers were interested in whether the degree of parental engagement influenced smoking behaviours (ie. were parents continuously involved in their children’s lives, or did they periodically engage with their children), and how the gender of a smoking parent influences the smoking behaviours in their children.
The study utilized surveys from just under 7,000 students aged 10-18 years. Students were recruited from middle-schools in North Carolina, and were asked to complete surveys every 6 months for a total of 7 times. Surveys included questions about gender, parental education, parental smoking behaviours, parental engagement (ie. do parents listen to their children’s problems, are parents demanding, etc.), and adolescent smoking behaviours and identities (ie. do they identify as a smoker).
The results of the study indicate that parental smoking behaviours had a strong influence on the adoption of smoking by their teenagers. These effects were mediated, however, by parental engagement. Parental engagement resulted in a protective effect against the adoption of smoking behaviours. The greatest effect was observed in parents who were continuously engaged in their children’s lives, while periodic engagement led to a more moderate effect against the adoption of smoking. Parental influence also seemed to be gender-specific, with females more influenced by their maternal parent, and males more influenced by their paternal parent.
The adoption of smoking behaviours can have lasting effects well beyond adolescence. This study indicates that the adoption of smoking is heavily influenced by parental behaviours. Therefore, encouraging smoking parents to be more cognizant of their parenting behaviours may act as a protective effect against the propagation of smoking in the next generation.
Written By: Nicole Pinto, HBSc