Parents trump peers as smoking influence

Jonathan Bricker found parents greatly impact the transition of teens from monthly to daily smoking

Teenagers may hang on their friends' opinions about hairstyles or music, but throughout adolescence, it's parents who greatly affect whether a teen adopts smoking as a daily habit, according to a recent study by researchers in the Public Health Sciences Division.

Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a scientist for the Youth Smoking Studies in the Cancer Prevention Research Program, led the longitudinal study of more than 6,000 families. The scientists tracked three grade levels spanning from early to late adolescence, along with three smoking transitions: never to trying; trying to monthly; and monthly to daily.

The results showed both parents and peers substantially influenced teens to first try smoking. The influence of close friends' smoking, although strong for the transition to trying smoking, did not significantly change across adolescence for any of the other smoking transitions. However, the influence of parents' smoking was substantial for all three transitions and, for the transition from monthly to daily smoking, increased markedly.

Drs. Art Peterson, Irwin Sarason, Robyn Andersen and Bharat Rajan also contributed to the study, which was funded by a National Cancer Institute grant and published earlier this year in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

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