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How Quality of Parenting Can cause Substance Abuse of Your Children  

According to a research by Becona E., Martínez U., et al titled ‘Parental styles and drug use: A review’ in 2011 shows there’s a clear link between parenting styles and a child’s risk of developing substance use disorders. 

Authoritative parenting, a style, characterized by warmth, clear expectations, and open communication, is associated with the lowest risk of substance use in children. Authoritarian style parenting with its emphasis on strict rules and control, is mixed. 

Permissive parenting which involves lax rules and little supervision, tend to produce children have a higher risk of substance use. Lastly, neglectful parenting a style characterized by a lack of involvement and responsiveness to the child’s needs. It’s linked to the highest risk of substance use disorders. 

How Quality of Parenting Can Cause Substance Abuse  

Quality of parenting can be a major factor influencing a child’s risk of substance abuse. Research by Baumrind et al. in 2000 titled ‘Parenting styles and adolescent substance use: A meta-analytic review’ suggests a connection between parenting styles and substance use. Authoritative parenting is seen as protective. 

In contrast, uninvolved (neglectful) or permissive parenting styles can increase risk. Uninvolved parents might not provide emotional support or monitor their children’s activities, while permissive parents may lack clear rules or be dismissive of substance use.

Children who feel emotionally unsupported or have strained relationships with their parents may be more likely to turn to substances to cope with negative emotions or loneliness. A chaotic or stressful home environment can be a risk factor. This could include factors like frequent arguments, violence, or mental health issues in the parents.

It’s important to remember that substance abuse is a complex issue and parenting is just one factor. However, positive parenting practices can be a powerful tool in reducing a child’s risk.

Can good parenting help with substance abuse prevention?

Yes, good parenting can be a significant factor in helping to prevent substance abuse in children and adolescents. Research suggests that children raised in nurturing and supportive environments are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. Here’s how positive parenting practices can contribute to this:

  • Strong Parent-Child Bonds: Authoritative parenting, characterized by clear expectations, open communication, and warmth, fosters strong parent-child bonds. These bonds provide children with a sense of security and belonging, making them less susceptible to peer pressure or the allure of substances to cope with emotional difficulties. Studies like “The impact of parenting styles on adolescent substance use: The mediating role of emotional closeness” by Simons et al. in 2000 highlight the importance of emotional closeness, fostered by positive parenting, in reducing substance use risk.
  • Positive Self-Esteem and Decision-Making Skills: Effective parenting practices can help children develop healthy self-esteem and strong decision-making skills. When children feel good about themselves and have the confidence to make positive choices, they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse.
  • Open Communication and Monitoring: Parents who openly discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol with their children create a safe space for honest conversations. Additionally, setting clear expectations and monitoring activities provides a framework for responsible behavior and demonstrates parental concern.

It’s important to note that substance abuse is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors. Genetics, social circles, and mental health can also play a role. However, strong, positive parenting practices can be a powerful tool in equipping children with the skills and support they need to resist substance abuse.

Can bad parenting cause substance abuse for children? 

While there isn’t a single cause for substance abuse, research suggests that parenting styles can be a significant risk factor. Here’s how:

  • Unhealthy Parenting Dynamics: Studies like “Parenting styles and adolescent substance use: A meta-analytic review” by Baumrind et al. in 2000 in the Psychological Bulletin show a connection between parenting styles and substance use. Authoritative parenting is seen as protective. In contrast, uninvolved (neglectful) or permissive parenting styles can increase risk. Uninvolved parents might be emotionally distant or fail to monitor their children’s activities, while permissive parents may lack clear rules or downplay the dangers of substances. These dynamics can leave children feeling unsupported and lacking positive coping mechanisms, making them more susceptible to substance abuse.
  • Stressful Home Environment: Research by Fergusson et al. done in 2007 in titled “Neighborhood disadvantage, family stress, and trajectories of adolescent substance use” suggests that a chaotic or stressful home environment can be a risk factor. This could include frequent arguments, violence, or mental health issues in the parents. Children raised in such environments may experience high levels of anxiety or depression, leading them to turn to substances as a way to cope with negative emotions.

It’s important to remember that substance abuse is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors. Genetics, peer pressure, and mental health conditions can also play a role. However, positive parenting practices that provide clear boundaries, open communication, and emotional support can be a powerful tool in reducing a child’s risk of substance abuse.

Different parenting styles 

Parenting is a complex journey, and every parent develops their own unique approach. Psychologists have identified four main parenting styles that differ in their levels of responsiveness (warmth and emotional support) and demandingness (expectations and rules). Understanding these styles can help you recognize your own approach and its potential impact on your child.


Think “strict but fair.” Authoritarian parents set high expectations and have clear rules. They may use punishment to enforce those rules, but they also explain their reasoning. While this style can foster self-discipline, it can also lead to low self-esteem and a lack of independence if the communication isn’t open.


Imagine a “go with the flow” approach. Permissive parents are often lenient with rules and expectations. They prioritize their child’s happiness and may avoid confrontation. While this can create a harmonious environment, it can also lead to a lack of self-control and difficulty with delayed gratification in children.


Consider this the “ideal balance.” Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. They set clear expectations, but they are also open to communication and negotiation. They provide warmth and support, while still encouraging responsibility. This style is generally linked to positive outcomes in children, including self-confidence, good social skills, and academic achievement.

Uninvolved (N\eglectful)

This style is characterized by low levels of both responsiveness and demandingness. Uninvolved parents are emotionally distant and often uninvested in their children’s lives. They may provide for basic needs but offer little guidance or support. This can have serious consequences for a child’s development, leading to emotional problems and behavioral issues.

It’s important to remember that these are just categories, and most parents fall somewhere in between. The best parenting style is the one that you can adapt and adjust to fit your child’s individual needs and temperament.

How to Improve Parenting to Prevent Substance Abuse of Your Children?

While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent substance abuse, strong parenting practices can significantly reduce your child’s risk. Here’s how you can improve your parenting to achieve this:

  • Build Open Communication: Create a safe space where your child feels comfortable talking to you about anything, including difficult topics like drugs and alcohol. Practice active listening, avoid judgment, and focus on understanding their perspective.
  • Establish Clear Expectations & Boundaries: Set clear rules and expectations about substance use at home. This includes discussing the legal and health risks of drugs and alcohol. Be consistent with consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Be a Positive Role Model: Children are highly influenced by their parents’ behavior. If you avoid substance abuse or use it responsibly, it sends a powerful message.
  • Promote Positive Activities: Encourage your child’s interests and hobbies. Help them develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress and negative emotions through activities like sports, music, or art.
  • Strengthen Your Bond: Spend quality time with your child and show them love and support. Strong parent-child relationships give children a sense of belonging and self-worth, making them less likely to turn to substances.
  • Stay Informed: Educate yourself about the signs of substance abuse in teenagers. Be aware of current trends and the types of substances readily available.
  • Seek Support: Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re concerned about your child’s behavior or your own parenting skills. Talk to a therapist, counselor, or pediatrician for guidance and support.

Remember, parenting is a continuous journey.  By fostering open communication, setting clear boundaries, and providing a positive and supportive environment, you can significantly reduce your child’s risk of substance abuse.

How Substance Abuse Affects the Quality Parenting 

Substance abuse has a profound and negative impact on the quality of parenting. Here’s how:

  • Reduced Focus and Availability: When parents are preoccupied with obtaining and using substances, their children’s needs become secondary. Daily tasks, like preparing meals, attending school events, or ensuring a safe and clean environment, may be neglected. This inconsistency creates chaos and insecurity for children.
  • Emotional Detachment and Unpredictability: Substance abuse can lead to mood swings, irritability, and even aggression. Children of addicted parents may experience emotional neglect or unpredictable outbursts, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and insecure.
  • Financial Strain: Addiction is expensive. Money that should be used for a child’s well-being may be spent on drugs or alcohol. This can lead to financial hardship, impacting basic necessities like food, clothing, and healthcare.
  • Poor Decision Making: Substance abuse can impair judgment and decision-making skills. Parents struggling with addiction may make poor choices that put their children at risk, physically or emotionally. This could involve driving under the influence, neglecting supervision, or creating unsafe living conditions.
  • Increased Conflict: Addiction can strain relationships within the family. Arguments between parents or with children are common. This creates a stressful and hostile environment that’s detrimental to a child’s emotional well-being.

The overall impact on parenting quality is a ripple effect. Reduced focus on children’s needs leads to neglect, emotional detachment, and financial strain. These factors then contribute to conflict and a stressful home environment, further jeopardizing the parent-child bond and a child’s healthy development.

What other potential causes of addiction are there? 

Beyond parenting styles, addiction can be influenced by a complex interplay of factors. Genetics play a significant role, with some individuals having a higher predisposition due to family history. Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD can also make someone more susceptible to self-medicating with substances. Social circles can be a major influence, with peer pressure or easy access to drugs increasing the risk. Early exposure to substances, during adolescence for example, can prime the brain for addiction later in life. Finally, factors like chronic pain, social isolation, or trauma can all contribute to the development of an addiction.

Can service in the military cause addiction?

Yes, it is possible. Studies have shown that there is a link between military service and addiction, particularly to alcohol and prescription drugs. This can be attributed to the high levels of stress, trauma, and accessibility to substances during deployment. Additionally, the military culture may also contribute to substance use as a coping mechanism. 

Can trauma exposure cause addiction?

Yes, trauma exposure can be a significant factor in the development of addiction. Trauma can negatively impact the quality of parenting, leading to dysfunctional family dynamics and a lack of emotional support for children, which can increase their vulnerability to addiction. 

Adam Siegel
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Adam is the lead addiction therapist at Olympic Behavioral Health and has been in the field of addiction treatment since 2009. Adam earned his associate degree in Applied Science for Chemical Dependency Counseling from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY, in 2009 and became a Certified Addiction Counselor in 2016. He is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work Program at Florida Atlantic University to obtain his MSW. Adam is also in long term sobriety which allows him to relate with patients on a deeper level.

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