Experimentation with drugs and alcohol often begins in early adolescence (if not sooner), with initiation rates for most substances dropping sharply after age 18 (Kandel & Logan, 1984). Use is heavier among males than females (Brook, Lukoff, & Whiteman, 1980; Kandel & Logan, 1984) and is most prevalent among white, middle-class adolescents (Gans, 1990), but drug use remains high among young people from all backgrounds. Indeed, experimentation with alcohol and other drugs is so common among today's young people that it is often considered normative.
Numerous studies have focused on understanding the factors that influence young people's patterns of drug use. Two domains of influence in particular have received a great deal of attention: the family and the peer group (Brook et al., 1980; Brook, Whiteman, & Gordon, 1983; Hawkins, Lishner, Catalano, & Howard, 1986).
With regard to the first of these domains, researchers have found that adolescents raised by authoritative parents are less likely to engage in substance use (e.g., Baumrind, 1989; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991). Authoritative parents are both responsive and demanding toward the adolescent. They are characterized by firm and consistent limit setting, but also by the respect with which they treat their adolescent and the warmth of the parent–child relationship.
Studies of selected aspects of authoritative parenting also have found significant relations between particular parenting practices and adolescent substance use.