Early, substantive dialogue between parents and their
grade-school age children about the ills of tobacco and alcohol use can be more
powerful in shaping teen behavior than advertising, marketing or peer pressure,
a University of Texas at Arlington marketing researcher has shown.
The findings of Zhiyong Yang, an associate professor of marketing in the UT Arlington College of Business, are published in a recent edition of the Journal of Business Research. Similar findings were part of a 2010 study he published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing of the American Marketing Association.
current work, “Demarketing teen tobacco and alcohol use: Negative peer
influence and longitudinal roles of parenting and self-esteem,” argues
that parental influence is a powerful tool in dissuading children from
smoking and drinking in their later teen years.
His 2010 article,
“The Impact of Parenting Strategies on Child Smoking Behavior: The Role
of Child Self-Esteem Trajectory,” shows that dialogue between parents
and teens is effective in combating risky behavior, such as tobacco and
alcohol use, and that parental influences buffer the impact of other
external factors such as social media and peer pressure.
“First, our conclusion is that parenting styles can be changed, and that’s good news for the parents and the teens,” said Yang,
who joined the UT Arlington in 2007 and specializes in “consumer
misbehavior,” a branch of marketing that attempts to change undesirable
or risky behavior.
Yang further elaborated, “Second, our study
shows that parental influence is not only profound in its magnitude, but
also persistent and long-lasting over the course of a child’s entire
life. Effective parenting plays the critical role as a transition belt
to pass normative values of society from one generation to another.”
Croson, Dean of the UT Arlington College of Business, said Yang’s
research sheds important light on what drives behaviors and
“Marketers often study how to sell more products,”
Croson said. “Dr. Yang’s work answers some important and thorny
questions about how to sell less, and what parents may be able to do to
help improve their children’s health and well-being.”
about 3,900 people under the age of 18 begin smoking in the United
States, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. An estimated
1,000 youth will become daily cigarette smokers. About 30 percent of
youth smokers will continue to use tobacco and will die early from a
smoking-related disease, the agency says.
Yang earned his
doctorate from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and has based
his research on national Canadian surveys of residents from childhood to
25 years old. Because the sampling was so large, comparable results
would occur in the United States, Yang said. Canadian teen smoking
statistics practically mirror those of the United States, he noted.
said his findings are counter to common perceptions that parents have
little influence on children’s behavior after they enter adolescence.
Conventional wisdom suggests that peer pressure and targeted marketing
and advertising are of paramount influence on teen decisions to use
tobacco and alcohol or engage in other risky behaviors.
research determined is that parental influence is a far greater factor
than those,” Yang said. “Parenting starts from birth. What could have a
greater impact than that?”
Less effective, Yang said, are
parenting strategies that employ negative reinforcement, such as
belittling a teenager, threats, physical discipline or using negative
consequences if the teenager’s behavior does not meet parental
“In fact, our research shows those negative strategies, like withholding affection, drive a teen toward smoking,” Yang said.
research also shows that parents could have a positive impact on
discouraging their teen from using tobacco by sharing their own
“There’s something to be said in telling a teen how
you’ve suffered if you’ve smoked or engaged in a bad behavior when you
were a teen,” Yang said.
He said the ideal next step in the
research would be to partner with local school districts to teach
parents a battery of parenting strategies that can be used to curtail
The UT Arlington College of Business is
among the largest business schools in the nation, enrolling more than
5,600 students each year and offering one of the widest selections of
undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
The University of
Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution with more
than 33,800 students and 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North
Texas. Visit www.uta.edu for more information.