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Family Matters, Favouritism Affect Substance Abuse Risk

Sep 13, 2014 07:24 AM EDT

Children living in disengaged families are at higher risk of using drugs, especially those who consider themselves as the less-favourite child, a new study has found.

The research has shown that parental neglect can profoundly affect a person's behavior even in later life. The current study shows that children belonging to disengaged families - where family members don't care for each other - are at a higher risk of substance abuse. The risk is especially high for children who feel that their parents prefer their siblings.

The study was conducted by Brigham Young University professor Alex Jensen and was based on data from 282 families with teenage siblings.

"With favoritism in disengaged families, it wasn't just that they were more likely to use any substances, it also escalated," Jensen said in a news release. "If they were already smoking then they were more likely to drink also. Or if they were smoking and drinking, they were more likely to also use drugs."

According to Jensen, perception of a teenager about how much his/her family cares about them is more likely to affect their chances of substance abuse than the actual degree of favoritism.

The researchers found no evidence of favoritism affecting drug use in families that take a strong interest in each others lives.

So what should parents do to avoid pushing their child into drug-seeking behavior? The researchers say that parents can try and be more loving. "Show your love to your kids at a greater extent than you currently are," Jensen said in a news release. "As simple as it sounds, more warmth and less conflict is probably the best answer."

Jensen also recommended that parents should encourage children to work on their identities and make them feel valuable.

The study is published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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