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Prev Sci. 2012 Dec;13(6):594-604. doi: 10.1007/s11121-012-0286-1.

Parenting practices and adolescent risk behavior: rules on smoking and drinking also predict cannabis use and early sexual debut.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Previous research has provided considerable support for idea that increased parental support and control are strong determinants of lower prevalence levels of adolescent risk behavior. Much less is known on the association between specific parenting practices, such as concrete rules with respect to smoking and drinking and adolescent risk behavior. The present paper examined whether such concrete parental rules (1) have an effect on the targeted behaviors and (2) predict other, frequently co-occurring, risk behaviors (i.e., cannabis use and early sexual intercourse). These hypotheses were tested in a nationally representative sample of 12- to 16-year-old adolescents in the Netherlands. We found that both types of rules were associated with a lower prevalence of the targeted behaviors (i.e., smoking and drinking). In addition, independent of adolescent smoking and drinking behaviors, parental rules on smoking predicted a lower prevalence of cannabis use and early sexual intercourse, and parental rules on alcohol use also predicted a lower prevalence of early sexual intercourse. This study showed that concrete parental rule setting is more strongly related to lower levels of risk behaviors in adolescents compared to the more general parenting practices (i.e., support and control). Additionally, the effects of such rules do not only apply to the targeted behavior but extend to related behaviors as well. These findings are relevant to the public health domain and suggest that a single intervention program that addresses a limited number of concrete parenting practices, in combination with traditional support and control practices, may be effective in reducing risk behaviors in adolescence.

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