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Study Finds No Link Between Increase in Child Marijuana Use and Baby Boom Parents
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
July 31, 2001

Parental membership in the baby boom generation does not explain the rapid increase in youth marijuana use from 1992 to 1995. The lifetime marijuana use rates among parents of youths and young adults doubled from 1979 to 1994, reflecting the increasing dominance of baby boom parents. Most of this increase occurred during the 1980's, when youth and young adult drug use rates actually were declining. The percentage of parents who were baby boomers or who had ever used marijuana did not change enough from 1992 to 1995 to be a major factor in the youth increase.

These and other findings related to youth marijuana use were released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in a new report, "Parental Influences on Adolescent Marijuana Use and the Baby Boom Generation."

"Children and teens may not always admit, but their parents' opinions and experience are always important to them," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "They are always listening, so we need to talk with them about the dangers of marijuana and other drugs."

"The study points out, once again, the power of parents to help their children stay healthy and drug free. It found that parents' attitudes and drug use history — whether a baby boomer or not — had an effect on their children's likelihood of using marijuana. So, all parents need to find a way to communicate with their children about the dangers of marijuana and other drug use," said SAMHSA acting administrator Joseph H. Autry III, M.D.

"It can make a difference. It's a matter of communication, involvement, and awareness; it's setting consistent rules, being a positive model and listening with love."

The study found that parents who perceived little risk associated with marijuana use had children with similar beliefs. In addition, parental attitudes had an indirect effect on the child's use through the child's own attitudes. Adolescent attitudes had the strongest association with adolescent marijuana use of any of the characteristics that were examined. Adolescents who perceived no risk or slight risk in occasional marijuana use were twelve times more likely to have used marijuana in the last year than adolescents who perceived great risk. The association between adolescent marijuana use and attitudes about the lack of harm associated with marijuana use was five times as strong as the association between adolescent and parental use.

Parental lifetime and last year marijuana use increased the risk that a child would ever use marijuana. Controlling for parent and child sociodemographic characteristics, the children of parents who ever used marijuana were about three times as likely to have ever used marijuana as the children of parents who never used the drug.

A notable finding suggests that parental influence does not reflect imitation of the parents by the child but the effect of the parent having chosen to become a marijuana user. Parents who stopped using marijuana and those who were currently using the drug had children who used marijuana at similar rates.

The analyses were based on 9,463 parent (mother or father) and child (age 12 to 25) respondents included in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted from 1979 to 1996. The research was conducted by Denise B. Kandel, Ph.D., Pamela C. Griesler, Ph.D. Gang Lee, Ph.D., Mark Davies, M.Ph. and Christine Schaffran, M.A., all of Columbia University and the New York Psychiatric Institute.

SAMHSA, a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead federal agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services in the United States. Information on SAMHSA's programs is available on the Internet at www.samhsa.gov. News media requests should be directed to Media Services at (800) 487-4890.

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