Children of permissive parents more likely to use ecstasy when older

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Children of permissive and indulgent parents are more likely to end up as ecstasy users when adults than those from stricter backgrounds.

Children of permissive and indulgent parents are more likely to end up as ecstasy users when adults than those from stricter backgrounds.

Allowing teenagers more freedom may be storing up problems for them in the future, the study presented at the opening day of the annual conference of the British Pyschological Society in Manchester found.

Drugs charities and psychologists said the study questioned whether liberal parenting techniques were in fact the best model for steering young people away from drugs.

Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University questioned 85 regular users of ecstasy and 83 non users between 18 and 25 about their upbringing between 11 and 14. They were asked about how late they were allowed to stay out on school nights and weekends, and if they always asked where they were going.

The participants were also questioned about the amount of "parental warmth" they were shown, in terms of how interested their parents were in their hobbies and daily activities and other behaviour.

People who used ecstasy were significantly more likely to say that they had less parental control as a youngster and were allowed more freedoms. While the drug users experienced lower levels of parental warmth, the biggest link was found with issues of control and discipline. There was also a link between levels of parental control during childhood and later use of other drugs, such as cocaine.

On average, the ecstasy users had first tried the drug just before their 18th birthdays.

Catharine Montgomery, the lead researcher, said: "Some parents may give their children a lot of love and support, but if they let them run around doing what they like when they are younger they are more likely to start using and carry on using ecstasy when they are older. "I do think this has implications for how we educate parents and also for drugs education policy ... The link between control and ecstasy use is significant."

The researchers categorised the students as coming from four types of parenting style. "Authoritative" parents showed their children a lot of love and warmth but also had strict controls on what they were allowed to do and where they could go. "Authoritarian" families had strict controls but were perceived by the students as showing little love and warmth. "Indulgent" parents showed lots of love and interest, but had relaxed rules."Neglectful" parents were seen as failing to show much love and allowing them to come at go almost at will.

Ms Montgomery said: "The optimum parenting technique appears to be the authoritative approach, rather than the one children may think they want, where they get more freedom."

A spokeswoman for the charity Drugscope said: "There are lots of factors involved in why young people take drugs and it is known that children who feel their parents are neglectful may be more likely to become involved in drug use."