Communicative fathers reduce the risk of teenage smoking

Children who communicate frequently with their fathers are less likely to experiment with smoking during early adolescence, according to a study by Dr James White from Cardiff University, presented at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference.

Dr White’s study took place over three years and involved 3,495 11-to-15-year-old children in the British Youth Panel Survey, part of the British Household Panel Survey. Only children who had never smoked at the time the study began took part. As well as their smoking, the children were also asked about the frequency of parental communication, arguments with family members and the frequency of family meals.

After three years, the responses of children who had remained non-smokers were compared with those who said they had experimented with smoking at some point. Recognised risk factors for smoking, such as age, participant sex, household income, parental monitoring and parental smoking, were all taken into account during analysis of the study’s findings.
Results indicated that one of the strongest protective factors for reducing the risk of experimenting with smoking in early adolescence was how often fathers talked with their children, both boys and girls, about ‘things that mattered’. The frequency of family arguments and family meals did not have a significant effect.

Dr White said, “This study suggests that a greater awareness of parents’ and especially fathers’ potential impact upon their teenagers’ choices about whether to smoke is needed and that fathers should be encouraged and supported to improve the quality and frequency of communication with their children during adolescence. Relatively little research has been done into the impact of parenting on adolescent health, and it is very much needed.”

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