UA research shows vital need for family support to prevent substance use in border communities
TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - New research’s from the University of Arizona Health Sciences is demonstrating the vital role a strong family support system can play in preventing substance use among kids and teens in border communities.
A study was done by Dr. Elizabeth Valdez of Drexel University that looked at adolescent substance use. This new research takes a deeper look into how the environmental influences can impact substance use in border towns
Dr. Allison Huff, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona said this is an area of research that needs more attention.
“They have different factors at play than a typical community or county that is not on the U.S.-Mexico border. Given our proximity to the border here in Arizona, it was just really important to look at that and to try to add to the body of literature,” said Huff.
Huff said that adolescents living along the border are often at a higher risk of substance use due to many factors not found in other communities in the U.S.
“Those were things like a depressed local economy, disordered neighborhoods stress, they had cross border access to substances, normalization of drug trafficking, normalization of substance use, particularly alcohol,” said Huff.
The research emphasized that family is a big strength for border communities. Family can be parents, relatives, but also those in the community.
“It’s the systems, the micro systems and the macro systems that impact the development of children. That includes coaches, teachers, individuals who work within the faith, people like churches or youth groups,” said Huff.
The research shows that teens with a strong family support system may face a lower risk of substance use. This system can be built through communication, trust, and parental monitoring.
“To create that high family support, adolescents need to know that there is some monitoring going on that that somebody that they trust cares enough about them to set high expectations, especially around academic or scholastic achievement,” said Huff.
The research also shows that a low family system doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of communication and trust, it could be caused by a high conflict environment, cultural and language barriers or a lack of time.
Huff added that this research can be beneficial in helping those who need it in southern Arizona border communities.
“We really hope that this study can inform those who work with families and youth in border towns to help ensure that there are intentional and deliberate efforts to support family and youth relationships as protective factors,” said Huff.
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