Strong Parent-Child Relationships Can Protect Teens From Inhalant Use

Strong Parent-Child Relationships Can Protect Teens From Inhalant Use

Strong Parent-Child Relationships Can Protect Teens From Inhalant Use

Strong Parent-Child Relationships Can Protect Teens From Inhalant UseThe parent-child relationship is the general term for the pattern of interaction that develops between parents and their children over time. The nature of this relationship goes a long way toward determining whether a child has a sense of security while growing up. In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, a team of American researchers sought to determine how the nature of a parent-child relationship affects the chances that a teenager will start using/abusing substances called inhalants.

Parent-Child Relationship Basics

There are four main forms of parent-child bonds: secure relationships, avoidant relationships, ambivalent relationships and disorganized relationships. Each of these relationship patterns is marked by varying levels of healthy attachment between a parent and his or her children. Secure relationships feature very strong levels of healthy attachment, which stem from ongoing parental involvement and steady provision of the emotional and material support that children need to fully develop and thrive. Avoidant parent-child relationships feature weak levels of attachment, which stem from steadily insufficient parental involvement and a regular failure to provide adequate emotional and material support. Ambivalent relationships feature intermittently strong and weak levels of attachment based on a parental failure to stay consistently involved or regularly meet a child’s emotional and material needs. Disorganized parent-child relationships feature a chaotic pattern of attachment stemming from a child’s inability to accurately predict his or her parents’ actions in any given situation.

Inhalant Basics

In most cases, inhalants are substances of opportunity, not drugs specifically designed to produce mind alteration. Teenagers have relatively high chances of using these substances because they commonly appear in the average household, rather than coming from a drug dealer or some other outside resource. The main classes of household inhalants include glue and other forms of adhesive, butane and other gases, aerosol-based hairsprays and other aerosol products, and solvent-based substances such as paint thinner, gasoline and nail polish remover. Other inhalants not typically found at home include degreasers and other industrial cleaners, nitrous oxide and other inhaled anesthetics, and products called nitrites (butyl nitrite and amyl nitrite).

Generally speaking, inhalants work by slowing down the brain’s normal rate of activity. Like other legal and illegal substances that alter basic brain function, they can trigger the onset of physical dependence and addiction when used repeatedly over time. Other known consequences of long-term inhalant use include partially or completely irreversible brain damage, bone marrow damage, heart damage, kidney damage or liver damage. In the short-term, inhalant users can also develop a fatal condition called sudden sniffing death syndrome (SSDS), which stems from unsustainable changes in normal heartbeat and subsequent heart failure.

Impact on Inhalant Risks

In the study published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, researchers from Andrews University examined the connection between parent-child relationships and the chances that a teenager will be a current inhalant user or have a history of inhalant use. They conducted this examination with the help of 570 teenagers from rural areas (which typically have relatively high rates for inhalant use/abuse). These teens were enrolled in either middle school (junior high school) or high school.

After looking at the types of parent-child relationships experienced by the study’s participants, the researchers concluded that teenagers who develop strong attachments to their parents have less of a chance of getting involved in inhalant use than children who don’t develop strong parental attachments. This does not mean that teens with strong parental bonds don’t ever use inhalants; it simply means that they do so at a significantly lower rate than teens lacking strong parental bonds. The researchers also concluded that teenagers have a lower level of involvement in substance use when their parents regularly monitor various aspects of their daily routines. Conversely, the Andrews University researchers found that teens who come from families that regularly engage in acts of verbal aggression have clearly heightened risks for using inhalants.


The authors of the study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse believe their work points toward an important link between unsupportive family environments and the onset of teen involvement with inhalant use. They also believe their findings demonstrate that a supportive family environment can act as a preventive measure that substantially lowers teenagers’ inhalant risks.

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