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Teenagers with one parent at risk of substance abuse

August 24, 2004 -- Teenagers from some single parent families are most likely to experiment with drugs, cigarettes and alcohol and experience some mental health issues.

These are the findings from the Social Inclusion and Diversity Research Unit at York St John College. Researchers from the college will reveal their results today, Saturday 4 September 2004, at the British Psychological Society's Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference at Leeds Metropolitan University.

The researchers questioned 1,832 young people aged 12 to 16 about their drug, alcohol and cigarette use. The youngsters - who came from two parent, single father, single mother or no-parent backgrounds - were also assessed for mental health issues such as depression, hostility and phobias.

The results indicated that adolescents from single father families were more likely to experiment with illegal drugs, with significantly more reporting taking prohibited substances when compared to peers from two parent families. Although Cannabis was the most commonly cited drug used by adolescents from single father families, a similar trend was found in all groups. Youngsters from single father families were also less likely to report having heard about different types of drugs and were more likely to report smoking cigarettes. These young people also scored poorly on four of the ten measures of mental health well-being.

In contrast adolescents from single mother families were found to be the most likely to report experimenting with alcohol and more likely to report drug use when compared to children from two parent families.

Helen Macrae, a member of the research team, said: "Both young people and parents from these family groups may benefit from extra social support. For the young person such support could address any emotional or mental health issues they may be experiencing as a result of a parent's absence. Single parent/carers also need support and encouragement in tackling issues such as drugs and alcohol abuse particularly in the face of the hardships they encounter raising teenagers on their own".

Source : British Psychological Society (BPS)

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