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New Study Shows Teens Need Help When Parents Feel Least Prepared to Provide It


~ Parent or a Pal? Parents Are Conflicted and Want Support ~

~Partnership Launches Major Digital Effort to Help Parents Connect with Kids~

New York, NY – June 11, 2008 – The early teen years are not only a turbulent time for kids themselves, but also usher in a period of increased insecurity and need among parents when it comes to preventing teen drug and alcohol use, according to the 20th annual national study of parents released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America®. The study shows that as kids transition into teendom, their parents’ need for useful information and help talking about drugs and alcohol peaks. At the very same time, parents’ confidence in their ability to influence their teens’ decisions about drugs and alcohol begins to wane.

According to data from the 2007 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), half of all parents (51 percent), with kids in 6th-8th grade, feel they lack the tools and information to prevent drug and alcohol use, where just 35 percent of parents of elementary school children (4th-5th grades) feel they need more help. Parents of teens and ‘tweens in middle school are the most likely group of parents – 46 percent – to sense their kids’ reluctance to talk to them about drugs and alcohol, and overall, four out of ten parents (37 percent) of teens and ‘tweens feel they have little influence over their middle schooler’s decision to try drugs. Yet, Partnership research shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use.

Now in its 20th year, the 2007 PATS study surveyed 1,045 parents or caregivers of teens and tweens (pre-teens) ages 10-19 (margin of error: +/-3 percent). Top-line findings from this nationally projectable tracking study show:

• The number of parents who report they need more tools and information to help their kids deal with drugs and alcohol jumps 46 percent between 4th-5th grade and 6th-8th grade. (35 percent of 4th-5th grade parents report they need more information, versus 51 percent of 6th-8th grade parents)

• Parents of 6th -8th graders are more likely to say that their kids are reluctant to talk to them about drugs and alcohol (46 percent) than are parents with children in 4th -5th grades (33 percent)

• Also, 37 percent of 6th-8th grade parents feel they have little influence over their teen or tweens decision to use drugs, versus 26 percent of 4th-5th grade parents who feel the same way.

“Parents are the most powerful influencers in their kids’ lives, including on their choice to try drugs or alcohol, but this study clearly shows that many parents feel increasingly overwhelmed as kids become teenagers,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership. “These vulnerable years are when teens and tweens are exposed to drugs and alcohol, and parents can’t let the normal turbulence and frustrations of raising teens interfere with their determination to keep their kids from risking their health. Science has helped us understand that the brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25, and while teens are attracted to experimentation and risk, they are simply not prepared to make good decisions about drugs, new social situations, sex and other tough issues that affect their futures. Parents have to step in and help their kids, no matter how challenging the conversation.”

“Should I Be a Parent or a Pal?”

Some parents feel conflicted in parenting their teens because they value having a strong friendship with their child. Parents’ wish to be their child’s friend and their reluctance to set rules and limits for their kids increases dramatically during the middle school years.

• PATS found 36 percent of parents with kids in grades 6th-8th agree “it is very important to me that my child consider me a friend” compared to 20 percent of parents with children in 4th-5th grades.

• As their children get older, parents are more likely to report that “I would never go through my child’s things when he/she was not there” – 23 percent for 4th -5th grade parents vs. 38 percent for parents with children in 6th -8th grades.

Parents of middle school kids (6th -8th grades) are more likely than parents of elementary school children (4th -

5th grades) to agree that:

• I have a hard time saying “no” to my child when he/she wants to do something or go somewhere I have doubts about (37 percent vs. 18 percent)

• It’s hard to tell my child not to do something if all of his/her friends’ parents allow them to do it or if other parents approve (40 percent vs. 19 percent)

“Being a parent is really hard work and I don’t always know the exact right thing to say or do,” Sandra Carcamo, mother of one ‘tween boy and two teenagers. “But the one thing that I do know is that I will do whatever is necessary to protect my kids from anything that could potentially hurt them. Even if it means I have to invade their privacy or have conversations with them that make them uncomfortable, that’s what I will do to keep my children safe because I love them.”

To view the 2007 PATS Parents full report, click here.

A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain:” The Partnership Responds to the Needs of Parents

The release of the unsettling PATS data on parents’ needs coincides with the launch of an innovative digital media tool on the web from the Partnership. The new site, “A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain” and helps parents navigate the confusing, often frustrating teen years. The site translates recent scientific findings into easy-to-understand tips and tools for parents. It also helps shed light on how teen brain development takes place later than previously thought and explains how that shapes teens’ behavior and personalities as they get older.

“A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain” explains how the human brain takes 25 years to fully develop, with the prefrontal cortex – responsible for complex judgment and decision-making – maturing last. Through extensive video segments featuring scientists, parents and teens, humorous interactive segments, role-playing and advice from experts, parents learn how adolescent brain development explains the “normal” teenage behaviors that often confound parents – impulsiveness, rebellion, high emotions and risk-taking – and how to use this new information to connect with their teens.

“A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain” is the first in a series of new interactive products the Partnership will introduce at throughout the coming year as part of a major effort to champion parents and provide them with the fact-based, science-grounded tools they want and need prevent and address drug and alcohol abuse with their kids and in their families.

DeKadt Marketing and Research, Inc. collaborated with the Partnership and conducted the 2007 PATS survey on parents’ needs through self-administered in-home questionnaires.

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The Partnership for a Drug-Free America

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is a nonprofit organization that unites parents, renowned scientists and communications professionals to help families raise healthy children. Best known for its research-based national public education programs, the Partnership motivates and equips parents to prevent their children from using drugs and alcohol, and to find help and treatment for family and friends in trouble. The centerpiece of this effort is an online resource center at, featuring interactive tools that translate the latest science and research on teen behavior, addiction and treatment into easy to understand tips and tools. Research conducted by AP and MTV recently showed that kids see their parents as heroes – at, parents can connect with each other, tap into expert advice for children of all ages, and find the support they want and need in their role as hero to their kids. The Partnership depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and other contributors. The Partnership thanks SAG/AFTRA, the advertising industry and our media partners for their ongoing generosity.

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