Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Surveys - The Anti Drug

MSNBC came to my rescue today with their article on the new Partnership For a Drug Free America Study.

The "study" can be read here. I found reading this document frustrating as at least the first part seems like lots of propaganda and it doesn't contain things that I would like to know. So readers I encourage your be wary. Here are some questions I would like answered. In the study they compared their results to a 1998 study.

Methodology Questions
  • They compare all of this data to 1998, why 1998, was this the last time they conducted this study? If not, what did the results of the surveys in between look like?
  • How did they select their sample, how was this the same or different from sample selection in 1998?
  • Can I see the survey itself, Can I see the 1998 survey?
  • What demographic data did they collect? (One that I would find interesting would be the DARE program, which students had participated in that and what their parent's response was.)

They seem to be making a connection between the high levels of teen drug use in 1979 and parental drug use, but I couldn't find any numbers telling me how many of these parents reported to have use marijuana and what their use statistics were. These statistics would be important to support their hypothesis that these parents are more mellow about drug use because they have used them themselves. While the data from 1979 is interesting, it is old data and their might be issues that arise in comparing it. Why not just ask the parents?

Also, in bold caps on their report it says "Only 1/3 of teens say they learn a lot about the risk of drugs from their parents." And apparently parental teaching is key. I would like to point out the word "a lot" in this phrase. Define a lot? Also, if 2/3rds of these kids have taken DARE, what are the odds that they would say they learned a lot from their parents, they might still have talked to their parents about it, but the amount of education involved in the DARE program might have skewed their definition of a lot.

Interpretation Questions
  • What other possible explanations are there for the significant change in parental attitudes?
  • Do these changes in attitudes coincide with changes in attitudes towards sex or other similar behaviors?
  • Could it be because more students are participating in anti-drug programs at school and after school programs?
  • Also were there significant geographic differences in the results of this study urban v. rural etc?
  • What percentage of the parents surveyed reported having ever tried marijuana themselves? How is this different from 1998?

How have these views changed on a yearly basis? (if the data is available)

I am suspicious of this survey because of its origins as well as the large amount of information that is missing from its report. I would encourage you too to be wary before feeling that you as a parent are not doing enough to prevent your child from doing drugs.

I certainly think that parents should speak openly and frankly with their children about drugs. They should speak with their children about drug use and the risks and consequences involved in the use of all of them. (for instance I'm sure if I told kids about my friend who did ecstasy and now has chronic seizures and other brain damage they would think twice) But Kids are smart, don't lie to them, be honest, and teach them to make their own decisions, they will make their own decisions anyway, all you can do is prepare them.

You can talk their ear off and they might not think that they learned "a lot" from you. At least they will have learned something.

Today's Bad Headline Award!

Survey sez: Barely half of parents care if kids try pot New York Daily News

runner up

Survey: Parents Blasé About Kids' Drug Use

news max.com FL (blasé, not being as lame a word as sez)

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