We all want to keep our kids off drugs. Most of us also shudder at the thought of our babies starting to date. I breathe a sigh of relief every time my 16-year-old assures me he’s still allergic to girls.
A surprising study from the University of Washington suggests that dating may be the lesser evil, and even act as a prophylactic against drug use.
Teens in relationships were substantially less likely than their single peers to abuse marijuana, alcohol or smoke cigarettes.
By the time teens are 19 or 20, the effect is dramatic:
The researchers found the typical person who was not in a relationship was 40 percent more likely to use marijuana than a person in a dating relationship but without a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend.
The team theorizes that couples are less prone to drug abuse because they’re spending less time in the places young people use drugs: bars and parties. They’re also getting social support from their partners.
It’s long been known that married people lead more sober lives than single adults. Now it seems that, for teens at least, a dating relationship has the same sobering effect as a marriage.
On the other hand, if your teen’s sweetie has an existing drug problem, the odds that your own child will abuse substances shoot up dramatically.
The take-away for parents: strong, loving relationships can help your kids stay out of trouble. Dating a drug addict isn’t any smarter than it seems. Steer clear of that if you can, at any age.