Barrett, LIME, (212) 352-4520
Deborah Burke Henderson, SADD, (508) 481-3568
Glashow, SADD, (617) 348-1667
OFFERS PARENTS NEW INSIGHTS INTO
WHEN AND WHY TEENS CHOOSE
DRINKING, DRUGS AND SEX
SADD/Liberty Mutual study details road map to
October 29, 2002 Providing a rare glimpse inside the thinking
of todays teens, new research conducted by SADD (Students Against
Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving Drunk) and Liberty Mutual
Group identifies key "decision points" as adolescents mature
and the factors most likely to guide their behavior with respect to
drinking, drug use and sex. While, predictably, teens report upward
trends in drinking, drug use and sexual behavior throughout middle and
high school, the research identified:
increases significantly between 6th and 7th grade;
use increases significantly between 8th and 9th grade; and
activity increases significantly between 10th and 11th grade.
Appendix/Chart 1 Teen Decision Points
national study of more than 1,800 middle and high school students revealed
a developmental time line reflecting significant spikes in destructive,
or potentially destructive, behaviors of teenagers, amplifying the need
for adult intervention that targets the issues most prevalent at different
stages of adolescence.
Just as important, the Teens Today 2002 study results released
today suggest time-targeted strategies that parents can use to help
keep their children safe.
"This compelling information takes parents beyond the whats
to the whens and whys of teen behavior. Its
a road map that identifies the dangerous intersections and some alternative
routes to avoid them," said Stephen Wallace, chairman and chief
executive officer of the national SADD organization.
"Weve always known about the decisions many teens make,"
added John Conners, executive vice president and manager of Liberty
Mutuals personal insurance operations. "Now were able
to better understand the factors that drive those decisions, which factors
are most relevant at different ages, and how those factors change over
The Teens Today research confirms many parents fear: young
people have easy access to alcohol, drugs and sex. Good decision-making
thus becomes the last, best line of defense for teens. Understanding
what factors influence those decisions can help parents best prepare
young people to avoid trouble.
The factors teens consider when making such decisions change in number
and relative importance depending on the age of the child and the decision
to be made. The factors regularly cited by teens include:
states (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress, boredom, curiosity);
goals (e.g., to feel grown up, to fit in, to take risks);
outcomes (e.g., Are others doing it? What are the chances of getting
caught? What are the potential consequences?); and,
people (e.g., parents, friends, siblings, clergy).
the final analysis, its a parents job to influence as many
of those factors as possible," said Wallace. "Making sense
of the often-convoluted information about teenage decision-making and
behavior is an important step for families trying to keep their kids
healthy and safe."
Despite what many teens might have adults believe, engaging in destructive
behaviors is not just about "having fun" or "feeling
good." Indeed, the data indicates other key drivers of decisions,
including anger, peer pressure and stress. Chart 2
and Chart 3 (see appendix Teen Decision
Why and Why Not) illustrate some common responses as
to why some teens choose certain destructive behaviors and others do
Other key findings from the Teens Today 2002 study:
second spike in drinking takes place between 8th and 9th grade;
are teens biggest influence not to drink, regardless of the
age of the teen; and,
teens mature, influences not to drink become less significant.
teens are more
likely than older teens to be influenced to use drugs by "external"
goals (e.g., to fit in). Older teens are more likely than younger
teens to be influenced to use drugs by "internal" goals
(e.g., to feel good); and,
graders say their number one reason to use drugs is to rebel.
one in four 6th graders and one in three 7th graders are sexually
teens are more likely to be influenced to have sex by "external"
goals (e.g., to be cool) and older teens more likely to be influenced
to have sex by "internal" goals (e.g., to have fun).
Drugs and Sex
12th grade, more than three in four teens are drinking and sexually
active, and almost half report using drugs.
friends are teens number one influence when making destructive
are teens number one influence to not make destructive decisions.
influence of parents in helping their children to avoid destructive
decision-making declines as teens mature.
DoesThis Mean for Families?
Today research has consistently revealed meaningful correlations
between parental involvement and teen decision-making. For example,
teens who report regular, open communication with their parents about
important issues say they are more likely to try to live up to their
parents expectations and less likely to drink, use drugs or engage
in early sexual activity.
"The message of this third annual Teens Today study is clear:
parents are the key to helping young people make smart choices,"
said Conners. "The evidence is mounting that adults who recognize
the choices that children face every day and who are prepared to intervene
with age-appropriate guidance are our best weapon against self-destructive
behavior among young people."
See Chart 4 Teen Decision Factors
What Parents Can Do
This report presents the results of a study commissioned by Liberty
Mutual Group and SADD and conducted by Atlantic Research and Consulting,
Inc. Three focus groups were conducted with teens between January 28
and January 31, 2002, in three cities around the country. The information
gathered in the focus groups was used to formulate a mail survey. Surveys
were filled out by teens and returned through the mail between March
18 and May 15, 2002. A total of 1,838 surveys were received from a cross-section
of 16 middle and high schools across the country. The data can be interpreted
at a 95% confidence level with a +2.1% margin of error.
SADD/Liberty Mutual Partnership
SADD and Liberty Mutual have teamed for more than a decade to examine
and address the issues facing young adults in todays world. The
signature product of this teen safety partnership is the annual Teens
Today study on teenage behaviors and attitudes on important safety
SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving
Drunk) sponsors peer-to-peer education and prevention programs in middle
schools and high schools nationwide.
Liberty Mutual Group is one of the largest multi-line insurers in the
property and casualty industry. Offering a wide range of products and
services, including private passenger auto and homeowners insurance,
Liberty Mutual Group employs 35,000 people in more than 800 offices
throughout the world.
SADD and Liberty Mutual make available a number of important family
communication tools, including:
Contract for Life and Opening
Lifesaving Lines brochure;
Family Focus speakers program;
Mutuals Avoiding Collisions: How To Survive The Teenage Driving
Years video and brochure; and
Mutual Family Communication Tips.
more information or to receive materials, contact:
255 Main Street
Marlborough, MA 01752
More Information About Teens Today
Today 2002 / Appendix -1
1 -- Teen Decision Points:
12th Grade Behaviors: Drinking 82%; Drug Use 46%; Sexual Activity 78%
Chart 2 -- Teen Decision Factors
factors by behavior and grade
popular or fitting in
from school or parents
take a risk
fit in and belong
Ive been drinking or using drugs
please my partner
up in the moment
else is doing it
Teens Today 2002 / Appendix -2
Chart 3 -- Teen Decision Factors
factors by behavior and grade
please my parents
set a good example for my siblings
feels good to say no
makes you vulnerable
dont want to get caught
dont want to lose my parents trust
interferes with sports
might affect my performance in school
is against the law;
of getting addicted
set a good example for siblings
please my parents
dont want to get caught
afraid of STDs or pregnancy
not in love or in a relationship
feel Im old/mature enough
is against my religion
partner doesnt want to
Chart 4 -- Teen Decision Factors
strategies for parents
outlets for recreation/ socialization
use of alcohol through discussions of its use in society
child with goal setting
stressors of school/grade change
family dialogue about negative impact of drug use, especially
on grades and athletic performance
teens about physical and emotional risks of sexual behavior
open discussion about mutually caring, respectful relationship