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Parents Shouldn't Admit Past Drug Use if They Don't Want Kids to Experiment

Update Date: Feb 22, 2013 03:40 PM EST

Talking to your children about your regrets of past drug use may seem like a good way to warn them about the dangers of using drugs, but a new study revealed that the plan of full disclosure may actually backfire.

A new study published in the journal Human Communication Research found that teenagers whose parents talked about past drug use were less likely to view drugs and alcohol as a bad thing.

However, children who were simply taught the dangers of drug abuse were more likely to exhibit antidrug attitudes. 

The study consisted of 561 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. The students selected in the study were of European and Latin descent. Researchers said they selected these two ethnic groups because they have the highest rates of alcohol and marijuana use in the eighth grade.

Researchers asked the students to detail conversations they have had with their parents about alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.  They also questioned the students about their attitudes toward drugs and their experiences with them.

Researchers found that when parents disclosed their own experiences with drugs, even when they were about negative consequences or regret, it actually undermined the point they were trying to make.

Researchers Jennifer A. Kam, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Ashley V. Middleton, MSO Health Information Management concluded that when their parents talk about their past drug use, even when there is a learning lesson, their messages may actually lead to unintended consequences for early adolescent children.

They say that based on the recent findings, parents should focus on talking to their children about the negative consequences other people who have gotten into trouble because of drug use and how to avoid using substances.

"Parents may want to reconsider whether they should talk to their kids about times when they used substances in the past and not volunteer such information," Kam said in a news release.

"Of course, it is important to remember this study is one of the first to examine the associations between parents' references to their own past substance use and their adolescent children's subsequent perceptions and behaviors," she said.

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