A recent study by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention (IREFREA) has found that children growing up in homes where there is an authoritarian parenting style are at higher risk of developing addiction problems. In the past, there was a tendency to view those who fell in to addiction as coming from backgrounds where there was a lack of discipline. This latest research suggests that this is certainly not always the case.
The study by IREFREA set out to examine the role of parents in substance abuse among young people. It studied a segment of population from a number of European countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. The study examined factors such as parenting style (including parental control and level of affection) and matched this to evidence of substance abuse. When the numbers were crunched, it was found that an authoritarian style of parenting was as likely to lead to addiction problems as a more indulgent parenting. It seems that rather than making children less willing to risk using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, bossy parents may actually increase the likelihood of substance abuse.
Authoritarian Parents and Demand Resistance
One possible reason for why authoritarian parents may be increasing the risk of their children developing addiction problems is demand resistance. This behaviour develops among kids who grow up in homes where there are unrealistic expectations placed upon them by parents. In the beginning, the child may do his or her best to meet the parent’s expectations, but once he or she realises that this is a losing battle, there is a change of tactics. Instead of trying to achieve the expectations of the parent, the child actively rebels against all demands.
If a child has developed demand resistance, the fact that parents are strict about not using alcohol or drugs may actually make this behaviour appear far more attractive. The child wants to rebel, so he or she does the opposite of what the parent wants. If the parent later finds out about the substance abuse and tries to lay the law down, the young person may just find it even more appealing – although they may work harder to hide the behaviour.
It is common for people who develop alcohol or drug problems to have developed a demand resistant personality. As the person grows older, this habit to resist demands made by parents becomes such a habit that the individual automatically resists any demands placed upon him or her – even the demands they make themselves. It can make it harder to break free of addiction until this tendency to rebel is overcome; thankfully, the fact that it is a learned coping strategy means that it can be unlearned as well.
Parental Styles that Can Reduce the Likelihood of Addiction
There are many reasons why individuals fall into addiction, so it would be unfair to try to always blame it on the parents. If it were always the parenting style that was at fault then why is it often only one child in the family that develops this type of problem? At most, parenting style is probably just a contributing factor because not everyone who comes from a strict upbringing would go on to abuse alcohol or drugs.
It does seem fair to say though that a parenting style that is too indulgent or too strict is more likely to lead to addiction problems for the child later on. If the young person feels that he or she is free to do anything, it is hardly surprising when he or she takes advantage of this freedom. In a home where children are faced with too many rules and regulations, there is going to be a risk that they rebel. It seems the best advice for parenting is to choose a parenting style that is more balanced between these two extremes.