February 21, 2001
The National Press Club
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and President
The National Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse at Columbia University
on release of
2000 CASA National Survey of American Attitudes
on Substance Abuse VI: Teens
For the past six years, CASA has been engaged in the unprecedented undertaking of surveying attitudes of teens and those who most influence them-parents, teachers, school principals. Other surveys seek to measure the extent of substance abuse in the population; our survey probes substance abuse risk. We seek to identify factors that increase or diminish the likelihood that teens will use cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs in an effort to develop the most effective means of helping teens avoid substance abuse.
CASA's surveys have consistently found that the family is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. The 2000 CASA National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VI: Teens is an attempt to assess systematically the impact of parental conduct on the likelihood of teen substance abuse. This is an enormously complex task and, as with any such cutting edge analysis, we see this as a work in progress. We believe it provides important insights that can help parents instill in their children the will and skills to resist the lure of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.
The loud and clear message of the survey is this: moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals. Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs. They can counter negative media influences and the availability of marijuana and other drugs in a teen's world. Whatever the family structure, whether the teen lives with both parents, a single mom or a single dad, their risk of smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs in "hands-on" households is dramatically lower than that of the average teen.
This year we surveyed 1,000 teens age 12-17 - 526 girls and 474 boys.
The most striking conclusions are these:
- "Hands-On" Parents - parents who establish a household culture where they consistently set down rules and expectations for their teen's behavior and monitor what their teen does - have teens at substantially lower risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs than the average teen.
- For the sixth year, teens continue to say drugs are their most important concern. At least one-quarter of teens have a friend or classmate who uses Ecstasy.
- The good news is that cigarettes are tougher for teens to buy this year. The bad news is that marijuana is easier.
- For the first time this year, we asked teens whose biggest concern was drugs what it was that concerned them most about drugs. Fifty percent said drugs "ruin your life," "cause harm," or are addictive. The fact that drugs are illegal was of concern to only two percent.
PARENTS: "HANDS ON" VS. "HANDS OFF"
For the past four years, CASA has identified parents as the key to keeping kids drug-free. Our 2000 survey makes an even stronger case. The extent to which the household culture is "hands-on"--the more parents establish appropriate rules and standards of behavior and monitor their teens--the lower the teen's risk of substance abuse.
This year, for the first time, CASA correlated each teen's risk of substance abuse with a series of 12 possible actions the teen attributed to his or her parents. We then categorized parents in three categories-"hands-on," "half-hearted" or "hands-off." Teens living in "hands-on" households have parents who consistently take ten or more of these 12 actions: monitor what their teens watch on TV; monitor what they do on the Internet; put restrictions on the music CD's they buy; know where their teens are after school and on weekends; expect to be and are told the truth by their teens about where they really are going; are "very aware" of their teen's academic performance; impose a curfew; make clear they would be "extremely upset" if their teen used pot; eat dinner with their teens most every night; turn off the TV during dinner; assign their teen regular chores; and have an adult present when the teen returns from school. The survey found:
- Only one in four teens (27 percent) lives with "hands-on" parents. Teens with "hands-on" parents are at one-fourth the risk of teens living with "hands-off" parents.
- Nearly one in five teens (18 percent) lives with "hands-off" parents-parents who fail to consistently set down rules and expectations-and are at four times the risk of substance abuse of teens with "hands-on" parents.
"Hands-off" parents consistently fail to set rules and monitor their teen's behavior (they take five or less of the previously described 12 actions). Here are some examples of how a teen's risk increases when parents fail to:
- monitor their teen's television and Internet viewing, and restrict the music CD's they purchase. These teens are at twice the risk of those teens whose parents monitor these activities.
- know where their teen is after school and on weekends or expect their teen to tell themwhere they are going at night or on weekends. Teens whose parents do not keep track of their whereabouts are at twice the risk of teens whose parents do.
- impose a curfew. Teens without a curfew are at one and a half times the risk of teens who have one.
- have dinner with their teens most every night. Teens who do not regularly eat dinner with their families are at one and a half times the risk of teens who have dinner with their parents nearly every night.
- closely monitor their teen's academic performance. Teens whose parents are "very unaware" of how their teen is doing at school are at nearly three times the risk of teens whose parents are "very aware" of their teen's schooling.
- give their teen a clear message about marijuana use. Teens whose parents would "not be too upset" about their teen's pot use have teens at more than triple the risk of teens whose parents would be "extremely upset."
Despite the conventional wisdom that many teens don't want their parents to establish rules and expectations, the survey found that teens with "hands-on" parents are much more likely to have an excellent relationship with their parents than teens with "hands-off" parents:
- 47 percent of teens living in "hands-on" households report an excellent relationship with their fathers compared with 13 percent of teens living in "hands-off" households.
- 57 percent of teens in "hands-on" households report an excellent relationship with their mother compared with only 24 percent living in "hands-off" households.
TEENS STILL AT RISK/ECSTASY PREVALENT
The CASA survey found 14.6 million 12-17 year olds (61 percent) are at moderate or high risk of substance abuse. Nineteen percent are at high risk, 42 percent are at moderate risk.
Other indications that drugs remain a serious threat to our children:
- In 1999, 60 percent of teens said they expected to never try an illegal drug in the future; in 2000 the figure has dropped to 51 percent.
- In 2000, more than 60 percent of teens in high school said drugs were used, kept or sold at their school.
For the first time CASA asked teens about their proximity to Ecstasy:
- Twenty-eight percent of teens know a friend or classmate who has used Ecstasy and 17 percent know more than one user.
- Ten percent of teens say they have been to a rave, and Ecstasy was available at 70 percent of these raves.
Over the past few years, CASA's surveys have told us that parents have a significant opportunity to influence their teens. As in 1999, far more teens surveyed in the 2000 survey who had not tried marijuana credited their parents (49 percent in 2000, 42 percent in 1999) with this decision than any other influence. Parent power is the most underutilized tool in combating substance abuse.
It is time for every parent to look in the mirror rather than look outside to what everyone else can do. Parents should ask themselves, "Am I a parent to my teen, or a pal? Do I monitor what my teen watches on television and on the Internet, what music CD's he or she buys and listens to? Do I know where my teen is after school and on weekends? Have I made it clear that I would be extremely upset if my teen used marijuana? Do I know how my teen is doing in school? Have I set a curfew for my teen? Do we have dinner together as a family most every night--without the television on?" The more CASA examines teen risk of substance abuse, the more it becomes clear that parents have enormous power for good. Parents need to ask themselves every day: "What am I doing today to keep my kids drug-free?"
I want to express CASA's appreciation to Steve Wagner, President of QEV Analytics, for his insightful work in analyzing the data. We appreciate the counsel of our survey advisory group members: John Schulenberg, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and a Principal Investigator on the Monitoring the Future study; Peter Bearman, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Columbia University and Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Theory and Research, Columbia University and co-Principal Investigator of The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health; Robert Shapiro, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Political Science, Columbia University and Editor of "The Poll-Trends" Public Opinion Quarterly; Timothy Johnson, Ph.D., Director of the Survey Research Laboratory, University of Illinois, Chicago and Associate Professor of Administration; Richard R. Clayton, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Center for Prevention Research at the University of Kentucky; Nicholas Zill, Ph.D., a Psychologist and Vice President and Director of the Child and Family Study Area, Westat, Inc., and J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., Director, Social Development Research Group, University of Washington.
Alyse Booth, CASA Vice President and Director of Media Relations, was project manager for this effort. She has done a superb job in helping analyze the data and was ably assisted by Stephanie Goichman, Communications Associate. William Foster, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and others at CASA lent their counsel. Steve Kilgore helped prepare the charts and Steve Kitts handled administrative tasks.
Finally, let me also express our deep thanks to The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which provided the funding.
All these individuals and institutions helped, but CASA and QEV Analytics are responsible for the content and analysis of this report.