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Winter 2014

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

Role Model

Stopping Teen Smoking

Study shows that parents have a greater impact on their grade-school-age children’s attitudes toward tobacco than peers or advertisers 

Zhiyong Yang

Zhiyong Yang's study challenges our ideas about parental influence on smoking.

Keeping your kids away from tobacco or alcohol may not be as hard as you think. According to marketing researcher Zhiyong Yang, the best weapon is a healthy dose of posi­tive parental reinforcement.

Each day about 3,900 people under the age of 18 begin smoking in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 1,000 of them will become daily cigarette smokers, with about 30 percent continuing to use tobacco to the extent that they eventually die early from a smoking-related disease.

Dr. Yang, an associate pro­fessor of marketing, recently published a study in the Journal of Business Research showing that 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.

“First, our conclusion is that parenting styles can be changed, and that’s good news for the par­ents and the teens,” explains Yang, who joined UT Arlington in 2007 and specializes in “consumer mis­behavior,” a branch of marketing that attempts to change undesir­able or risky behavior.

“Second," he continues, "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.”

This does not include 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 expectations.

“In fact, our research shows that those negative strategies, like withholding affection, can actu­ally drive a teen toward smoking,” Yang explains.

The research also indicates that parents could have a positive impact on discouraging their child from using tobacco by shar­ing their own experiences.

“There’s something to be said for telling a teen about how you suffered when you smoked or engaged in a bad behavior during your youth,” Yang says.

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.

“What our research deter­mined is that parental influence is a far greater factor than those,” Yang says. “After all, parenting starts from birth. What could have a greater impact than that?”

More articles from this issue

UT Arlington - Office of Research