Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: An Examination of Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement

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This report by a White House advisory body uses statistical evidence to back up intuition: that greater parental involvement reduces a teen's risk of substance use, sexual activity, violence and thoughts of suicide, while increasing academic achievement. The report says teens today are healthier and more prosperous than ever, are taking more challenging courses than their 1980s' counterparts, are attending college at a higher rate than teens 10 years ago, are more involved in community service and are less likely to get pregnant than teens were 10 years ago. On the other hand, college attendance disparities between races remains high, gun deaths are high, drug use and poor nutrition remain high, and teen smoking rose in the 1990s. The report traces causes and solutions to parents.

The report demonstrates how parental involvement can help teens take advantage of opportunities and avoid risks. It correlates high-risk activities to factors such as teens' closeness to their parents, and whether or not they regularly eat dinner with their parents. For example, 42 percent of 15- and 16-year-olds who don't feel close to their parent(s) smoke, compared with 26 percent of those who do. Those who do not regularly eat dinner with their parents are twice as likely to have attempted suicide. Whether a family was headed by one or two parents had negligible impact on the results.

The report is based on a survey of 1,849 12-to 14-year-olds, 2,006 15- to 16-year-olds and 1,825 17- to 19-year-olds. 29 pages. Free. Available online only at www.whitehouse.gov/.WH/EOP/CEA/html/Teens_Paper_Final.pdf

- Amy Bracken