National Trends in Parental Communication With Their Teenage Children About the Dangers of Substance Use, 2002–2016

Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Millan A. AbiNader, Michael G. Vaughn, Mariana Sanchez, Sehun Oh, Trenette Clark Goings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Parental engagement is critical to adolescent substance use prevention. However, our understanding of the degree to which parents are actually talking to their children about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs remains limited. The present study provides new evidence on the prevalence and trends of parental substance use communication (PSC) in the United States between 2002 and 2016. Trend analyses were conducted using 15 years of cross-sectional survey data from non-Hispanic White (n = 153,087), Black/African American (n = 35,216), and Hispanic (n = 45,780) adolescents aged 12–17 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Since the early-to-mid 2000s, the rate of past-year PSC declined significantly, even when accounting for sociodemographic factors. We observed particularly noteworthy declines among adolescents residing in households earning less than $20,000 per year, declining by 19% (in relative terms) from a high of 58% PSC in 2003 and 2008 to a low of 47% in 2016. Teens reporting PSC reported higher levels of perceived parental warmth/engagement and consistent discipline/limit setting. Findings underscore the importance of engaging parents, particularly those less likely to talk to their children about substance use, and providing caregivers instruction and encouragement to talk to teens about the very real dangers of substance use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-490
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Primary Prevention
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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