Parents have a significant influence on the societal norms, values and behaviour learned by their children. Permissive parental rule setting and monitoring has been shown to relate to a greater likelihood of children engaging in health-compromising behaviours such as smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are of particular concern for Pacific youth - although smoking rates have been declining over time, they are still twice as likely to be regular smokers as their non-Pacific, non-Māori peers, and more likely to report drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in one session. To deter Pacific youth from taking up smoking or engaging in excessive alcohol consumption and, therefore, reduce health inequalities arising from such substance use, it is important to understand the relationships with protective factors such as parental monitoring.
HPA’s Youth Insights Survey (YIS) is a key source of New Zealand data on adolescent substance use. The YIS monitors Year 10 students’ behaviours, attitudes and knowledge on health-related topics, including tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, and protective factors such as parental monitoring.
Five items from the 2012 YIS relating to parental monitoring were examined for this analysis: “my parents or caregivers generally know what I spend my pocket money on”, “my parents or caregivers often have no idea of where I am, when I am away from my home”, “my parents or caregivers know about my school life (eg, my teachers, my grades)”, “my parents or caregivers would be upset if I was caught smoking cigarettes/ tobacco” and “if I break any important rules that my parents or caregivers have set I always get into trouble”.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with each statement, but could also answer that they didn’t know. The statements did not have sufficient internal consistency to be grouped into a combined scale, therefore each was examined separately. Agreement with each statement was compared against smoking status and risky drinking status. Risky drinking was defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one session. To reduce the risk of injury from alcohol consumption, HPA’s advice is no more than five standard drinks in a single occasion for men and no more than four in a single occasion for women (Health Promotion Agency, 2014). Drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in one session is therefore a high-risk behaviour for Year 10 students. Analysis was restricted to those students who reported a Pacific ethnicity (n = 400). Ethnicity was coded in accordance with ethnicity data protocols (Ministry of Health, 2004) and multiple ethnicities were allowed.
• One in eight (13%) Pacific Year 10 students were current smokers, while nearly one-quarter (22%) had engaged in risky drinking in the past month.
• Monitoring of expenditure and whereabouts by parents, as well as parental anti-smoking expectations, were associated with both smoking and risky drinking behaviour among Pacific youth. Those who had never smoked nor ever engaged in risky drinking were more likely to have parents who monitored their expenditure, monitored their whereabouts when they were not at home, and would be upset if they were caught smoking, than their smoking and risky drinking peers.
• Parental concern about education and parental rule enforcement showed different patterns for smoking compared with risky drinking behaviour. Parental concern about education was a predictor for smoking status (never smokers were more likely than current smokers to have parents who knew about their school life), but not for risky drinking. On the other hand, parental rule enforcement was a predictor for risky drinking (those who had never engaged in risky drinking were more likely than past-month risky drinkers to get into trouble for breaking parental rules), but not for smoking.