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Predictors for early alcohol and illicit drug use include anxiety, depression, stress and social support. The new research looked at middle school kids between the sixth and eighth grades. Those children reported that more emotional support from teachers deterred them from early alcohol and other substance initiation. Also, those students who reported high levels of anxiety separation from their parents were at decreased risk for early alcohol use.
“Our results were surprising,” said Carolyn McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children's Research Institute. “We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.” They defined this type of support as feeling close to a teacher or being able to talk with a teacher about a problem.
They also found that children who were close to their parents, even clingy, were less susceptible to negative influences from peers which could lead to drug and alcohol experimentation. “Teens in general seek new sensations or experiences and they take more risks when they are with peers,” explained McCarty. “Youth with separation anxiety symptoms may be protected by virtue of their intense connection to their parents, making them less likely to be in settings where substance use initiation is possible.”
Furthermore, youth who get into alcohol prior to sixth grade had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms. Depression may be a consequence of early alcohol use or it could be a factor leading to the use of alcohol.
“Based on the study and our findings, substance use prevention needs to be addressed on a multidimensional level,” said McCarty.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors
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