Kids Say No to Smoking if Parents Set Good Example
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children living with nonsmoking parents-and particularly those youngsters who also have mothers with a strong antismoking attitude--are 50% less likely to take up the tobacco habit compared with their peers, researchers report.
Not surprisingly, the study also revealed that when parents encourage children to "do as I say and not as I do," children are apt to dismiss the good advice, and view the parents as hypocritical.
While previous studies have clearly established that parents' smoking behavior influences their child's subsequent cigarette use, the role of a mother's attitudes and concerns about smoking on cigarette use is largely unknown.
To investigate, lead author Dr. M. Robyn Andersen of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington and her team looked at the smoking habits of 2,736 students in 12th grade and the smoking habits and attitudes of their mothers.
Initially, all of the mothers responded to a questionnaire when the students were approximately 8 years old and in the 3rd grade--before the time most children begin smoking.
The children were interviewed about their smoking habits 9 years later when they were in the 12th grade.
According to the report in the February issue of the journal Preventive Medicine, children in households where neither parent smoked and the mother had strong antismoking beliefs were 50% less likely to take up the habit than other children.
"In contrast, in households in which one or both parents are current smokers, there was no reduction in adolescent smoking associated with mothers' antismoking attitudes," Andersen and colleagues write.
"This joint effect of parental attitudes and behaviors suggests that mothers' attitudes have a substantial influence on children and adolescents, but that this influence occurs only when the attitudes are strongly held and both parents behave in a manner consistent with those attitudes and do not smoke," they add.