Vigilant Parenting Helps Prevent Alcohol Misuse in Teens with ADHD

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at risk for numerous social, psychological, and academic challenges. Negative behaviors can draw unwanted attention to children with ADHD and make them feel like they are different than their peers. These patterns continue into adolescence and can cause kids to gravitate to other teens with less than desirable behaviors. Many kids with ADHD struggle with socialization because of their impulsive and hyperactive behaviors and often find themselves accepted only by other teens who exhibit the same type of risk-taking and impulsive behaviors. Substance use, and alcohol use in particular, is one behavior that ADHD teens seem to be especially vulnerable to. Research has hinted to a link between ADHD and alcohol use during adolescence. But few studies have looked at this relationship while taking into consideration other factors such as parental awareness.

Brooke S. G. Molina of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh sought to extend the existing research by examining the effects of vigilant parenting on alcohol use among teens with ADHD. She recently conducted a study that looked at how parental awareness affected the patterns of alcohol consumption in two groups of teens, one between the ages of 11 and 14 years old and the other ranging in age from 15 to 17. The goal was to determine if early parental vigilance would affect drinking behavior in later teen years for adolescents with a history of ADHD.

Molina found that when parents were aware of what their children were doing, where they were going, and who their friends were, the teens were less likely to misuse alcohol. In fact, the lowest rates of alcohol use disorder were among those teens whose parents were aware of their activities. This was true regardless of the severity of ADHD symptoms for the teens. “Thus, vigilant parenting of teens with ADHD may thwart the socialization influences that typically surround teen drinking,” said Molina. These findings offer opportunities for interventions aimed at children with ADHD and their parents and underscore the importance of active and positive parenting practices.

Molina, B. S. G., Pelham, W. E., Jr., Cheong, J., Marshal, M. P., Gnagy, E. M., Curran, P. J. (2012). Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and growth in adolescent alcohol use: The roles of functional impairments, ADHD symptom persistence, and parental knowledge. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028260

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  • Janet

    August 8th, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    I have to agree with this. Years ago when my son was 15 years old and my husband was overseas for work, I found out that my son was into drinking with his friends.I was shocked initially. I spoke to my husband about this and we thought it was due to his being overseas and me not being able to keep an active tab on our son’s activities.

    We had an open discussion with him about the dangers of alcohol and encouraged him to take up sports and other activities wherein he could invest his time constructively.He stopped drinking.I know this because I kept a very strict tab on him after that and he then began playing football in school, which continued into his college.

    Today nine years after that incident, he does not drink or smoke. And I am proud to say my constant monitoring saved my son from falling into a bottomless pit that drinking can often be.

  • kerri

    August 9th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    ADHD or not, it takes vigilant parents to stop teen drug and alcohol misuse and abuse, period. Parents, whether they like it or not, have been given the role of a lifetime when they have children, and what they have to do with that role is to love their kids and do what they can to keep them safe and to provide them with the skills that they need to become productive society members. With that being said, having a child with ADHD can be even more than the typical challenge, since given their unique situations they can be far more susceptible to giving in to peer pressure thatn their other friends could be. This is all in an effort to fit in, but nine times out of ten this desire to leave ADHD behind can get them into a lot of trouble. Parents we have to step up and do our job to make sure that it is not our own children who are either getting into trouble with alcohol or leading someone else down the wrong path.

  • Al

    August 9th, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    I dont think it would be right to say children with ADHD will automatically mingle with those with undesirable habits. They can make the right choices with parents’ help and can become very productive members of society. This is a wrong generalization if you ask me.

  • marti

    August 9th, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    I can think of another reason why kids with ADHD may become more likely to get innvolved with alcohol or drug use.

    Many of the will turn to these things as a way of coping with having a terrible school experience that sadly so many of them have to endure. ADHD students have a really hard time integrating into the traditional school setting, so as a way to cope they need something to turn to for comfort. Alcohol seems to be the drug of choice for many kids like that.

  • Ethan Anderson

    August 9th, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Looking around it is not hard to observe that youngsters who grow up in homes where there is only one parent or parents that are not giving them enough time are more vulnerable to picking up alcohol and drug abuse and even risky sexual behavior.Parents play a BIG role in their development and a constant vigil can often go a long way in preventing such risky behavior.

    Looking back to my own teen years,I am thankful to my parents who always kept a hawk’s eye on my activities and guided me at every step and indeed they played a major role in me reaching where I am today.Thanks,mom and dad.

  • JusBlaineJulia

    August 10th, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Parents have to tread a very fine line with this one because we all know that the parents who are overly vigialnt will tend to drive a wedge between them and their children. This could cause the kid to rebel even more than they would have done so normally.

  • Gareth.M

    August 10th, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    The wife and I always try and look out for any signs of such practices in our son.He has ADHD but that is not the reason.We would do that in any case but this just makes it even important.Not only does constant overlooking help in avoiding practices like these but it creates a better bond and understanding between the parents and their child.

  • Savannah

    August 11th, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    Teenagers are going to be sneaky and get into trouble, no matter what. It’s the age and the hormones and we have to accept that this will be reality. The hormones do cloud the judgement. With that being said, I do believe that you can vut back on some of that when you are a vigilant parent and you know about the people your kids are hanging out with and where they are going. It’s ok to check up on them, scroll through their phone messages, emails, etc. It feels nosy, but I think that I am doing all of that to stop situations from happening before they have toe chance to do so. I want to trust my children, but at the end of the day they are still young and this is a time when they really need my guidance and I am there at the drop of a hat to give that to them.

  • Hollis

    August 11th, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    I am afraid that in almost every aspect of development, parents of kids with ADHD are going to have to be be doubly committed to being involved in pretty much everything that they do.

    From my own experience, I had a child who was so independent and a wonderful student, and one who has ADHD and practically needed to be tied to the desk before he could sit still in class long enough to get anything out of school!

    We knew from a very early age that this would be a challenge, so that became my main role as a mom: to get him through school successfully. It too pretty much every waking moment that we had to make it happen but we did it.

    As an adult he still struggles some, but he is old enough now to know what strategies work for him and the ones that don’t. All I can say is that you can never give up on them though. ADHD does not mean that he is not intelligent or can’t do the work, it’s just that you have to look beyond the traditional to discover the learning modes that will best meet the special needs of this child.

  • Lois Dean

    August 12th, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    What I have noticed too much about the parents of today is that far too many of them are more concerned with their own needs than those of their kids. Sometimes I just want to look at some of them and tell them that there will be time for all that later on- now is the time to be looking after the kids and making sure that they are staying on the straight and narrow. People always think that the time that they need to be home with their kids is when they are younger, but I disagree, That time is important but really the most important time to be with them is from middle school on, because that is when they will be faced with those really tough decisions and they will need you even more.

  • marleen

    August 13th, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    I don’t know, I tried to be that parent who is always in the know and it kind of harmed more than helped my relationship with all my kids.
    I think that they came to see me as more overbearing than what I wanted to be, but there it was and that’s how they saw it.
    Now I have a terrible relationship with all of them and none of them want to have that much to do with me at all.
    Somewhere along the way I went from trying to save them to becoming someone they didn’t need saving from.

  • Jonah

    August 13th, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    @ marleen- you have to know that at some point in time, when your kids actually mature and realize that you were only trying to do what you thought was best for them at that time, that they will understand where you were coming from as a parent and hopefully in some way they can appreciate and understand the fact that you were only trying to look out for their well being. I hope that you can re-establish those ties with your children, that they will come to want the same thing from you. I hate to see a parent who was honestly trying to do the right thing, possibly in the wrong way, but ultimately to protect their kids, and then have to pay a price such as this for that. Best of luck to you and your family as I hope alll of you will find a way to heal from this division.

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