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
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
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)
Sign up for SAMHSA's mailing list for this and other SAMHSA reports