Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Kids feeling unsafe on streets

CBBC Newsround have been asking children about how they feel about being out on the streets and say:

One in five of you feel unsafe on the streets, according to a Newsround survey.

Lots of you also said you are scared of bullies, and four out of ten of you are scared of the dark.

In the film that’s embedded on the Newsround site the children talk about being intimidated by older young people and on a separate page a young girl is quoted saying:

“If I go to the shops and it is late. Sometimes I see people drinking and worry, because they could do anything to you. Also, if I leave my bike outside people could take it.”

Newsround suggest that if children feel unsafe they should:

  •   Go out with a big group of people you know
  •   Stay in a well lit area
  •   Take your phone when you go out
  •   Stay in places you know well

Filed under: risk and protective factors

Child wellbeing and child poverty

The Child Poverty Action Group have produced a report about the relative position of the UK in terms of children’s wellbeing.

One of the domains they look at is behaviour and risk:

This domain covers violence, child deaths (mostly accident related) and risky behaviour (including early sexual intercourse, smoking, drinking and drug use). Sweden is the best performer here, Lithuania the worst. The UK is in the middle of the table. The Swedes do well on all aspects of the measure, but particularly so in having a lower level of violence or violent behaviour. Lithuanians do badly on all of the components. The UK scores relatively badly on risky behaviour, but actually has lower than average violence rates and child mortality.

Using Many Eyes here’s what the data looks like.


Update: – Connor Ryan, former special advisor to David Blunkett and Tony Blair, gives some context to how the domains in this report are put together and weighed.  On the behaviour and risk domain he says:

The three components here are ‘violence and violent behaviour’ (fighting or experiencing bullying), child deaths and risky behaviour (early intercourse, smoking, drugs, drunkenness). Surprisingly, perhaps, the UK does a bit better on this list, being brought down by youthful drunkenness, but having a relatively low number of child deaths.

Filed under: europe, risk and protective factors

Parental divorce and adolescent cigarette smoking and alcohol use: assessing the importance of family conflict

Acta PædiatricaHere’s the findings from an abstract of a research paper looking into how family conflict contributes to the relationship between parental divorce and adolescent cigarette smoking and alcohol use.

Family conflicts are important contributors to the relationship between parental divorce and adolescent cigarette smoking and alcohol use. Conflict between parents and adolescents, but not inter-parental conflict, appears to be the most important factor in the relationship between family conflict and adolescent substance use.

Via the SHEU website.

Filed under: parents, research, risk and protective factors

Engaging Youth Enquiry

On a similar theme to the last post the Rathbone/Nuffield Review have published their final report of the Engaging Youth Enquiry.

Their research has been focused on young people who are not in education, employment, or training.

To have any chance of helping these young people to meet the learning challenges needed to re-engage with society they have to be acknowledged as a diverse group with diverse needs which must be dealt with in a holistic manner. There is little point, for example, in investing thousands of pounds in an initiative to provide access to basic skills courses, for example, if the most important problem faced by some young people is where they are going to sleep that night.

The paper explores the issues around territoriality:

“Postcode wars”, between people from different local areas, were perceived to be problematic by some of the young people. This was particularly so for older teenagers: for instance, in the case of the nine young men attending a workshop in Hackney, the younger teenagers (aged 13-15) had friends in different areas with whom they regularly met up without difficulty, but those aged 16-19 tended to find this problematic, envisioning conflict if they moved out of their own local areas.

These findings are echo the recent research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the same issues.  The Engaging Youth Enquiry argue:

The increased regulation and sanitisation of risk for young people means that they choose to make their own risks, and these may be divergent with reality. However, given how often such statements were made by the young people who participated, it would appear that dramatic incidents such as these are very real for these young people, with the press reporting of such incidents only serving to reinforce this drama. Hence the need for work with these young people to challenge the glamourisation of the gang and drug-related lifestyle, through education and youth schemes, which acknowledge and respect the life circumstances and aspirations of the young people, and are targeted at young people who are at risk of gang-related activity.

The paper talks specificly about the need to address drug issues with this group of young people:

The following quotation shows how cannabis can become embedded into the daily routine of some young people:

‘Get up at 8ish. Have a cig, come to college, earn some dough, have some weed.’
(M, 16)

Drug use increases the risks for young people in two ways: firstly, that they will be outside education, employment and training and, secondly, that they will become involved in offending. One of the practitioners at the workshop working in this area with young people commented that the focus was not just on so–called hard drugs such as heroin and crack. This is partly because the patterns of use for cannabis users are the same as for heroin users. They offend to get more cannabis, and their whole lives revolve around this particular issue.

The report looks at the school careers of this group:

One of the key findings from our work with young people over the last year is the very pronounced feeling of alienation from schooling so many expressed. Many of the young people certainly have unhappy memories of schooling, and in most cases they do not want to re-engage via an education route: they want a job. However, the reasons for dropping out are far more complex. For many it is not primarily about the school curriculum, or about a lack of vocational learning opportunities, but an inability to cope with the necessary authority structures that must underpin the structure of schooling…

This is not to criticise teachers or to argue against the value of schooling for the majority of youngsters. These young people are challenging – many will readily admit to poor behaviour at school and many are on the margins of gangs, which provide an alternative life style for them.

The report has a great deal more to say, far more than I can hope to cover here, but I want to finish by looking at what it says about the importance of youth work to these young people’s lives.

At the heart of successful work with the young people who participated in the workshops is successful communication. The practitioner workshop in Manchester, in particular, was full of references to the need for effective, unbiased and non-judgemental communication with young people, based on a process of negotiation, and listening to their needs, rather than imposing choices upon them…

Trust is a highly significant factor in the re-engagement of many young people who are defined as ‘NEET’. The building and nurturing of meaningful relationships with these young people by those who work with them, in the education and training sector, but also in the voluntary sector, can provide positive outcomes. The key role of volunteers and detached Youth Workers, and their strong relationships with young people, must be highlighted here…

…youth workers are far more than role models. They actively intervene in the lives of the young people for whom they take responsibility. We were struck throughout the Enquiry by the number of times youth workers, in particular, displayed a deep-rooted sense of active concern for young people and their communities, translated into a willingness to do what it takes to engage the young people in positive activities.

Download the whole report here.

Filed under: research, risk and protective factors

Positive schooling found to prevent antisocial behaviour

Children & Young People Now

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which looked at how children from high-risk backgrounds can avoid becoming antisocial, found young children who had school friends, supportive teachers and took part in school activities and clubs, were up to 79 per cent more likely to grow up “pro-social”.

Good parenting skills were also found to protect under-nines from becoming antisocial, but school experience was the most influential.

The research paper can be found here. They found:

Involvement in a number of types of behaviour up to age 8½ significantly increased the likelihood of involvement in further anti-social and other types of problem behaviour at age 10½. These behaviours were: smoking a cigarette; setting fire to property; carrying a weapon in case of a fight; and drinking alcohol without parental permission. This suggests a strong association rather than a causal relationship.

They found that resilience was an important protective factor and say:

  • Gender was found to be significantly associated with resilience – girls were more likely to be resilient than boys.
  • Analysis conducted on the boys-only sample showed that the characteristics associated with resilience amongst the boys were: school enjoyment; demonstrating high levels of pro-social behaviour and having mothers with high levels of parenting skills.

Filed under: risk and protective factors,

The Seeds of Exclusion

The Seeds of Exclusion

The Seeds of Exclusion

The Salvation Army have a new document out looking at the risk factors for social exclusion. Here’s some of what it says:

While drug choices are shaped by social and economic circumstances, biological endowment and psychological development are also important. Genetic factors do not ‘cause’ drug use or dependence, but they increase the risks for certain individuals, if drugs are available.

Other risks relate to family relationships. Abuse, neglect and homelessness all increase the chances that children will experience problems with drugs later on. The chances are also increased where parents and other family members use drugs. These and other risk factors for heavy drug use are far more significant when they cluster together in children’s and young people’s lives.

In their conclusion they ask:

When personal difficulties arise in children and young adults who have little or no immediate family support, they can become vulnerable to a range of problems. These may be exacerbated by high levels of exposure to alcohol and other drugs. Another predisposing factor to vulnerability is when close family members also have mental health problems.

This leads to critical questions relating to the family: How do you support vulnerable young people when they experience issues such as this within the family unit?

They conclude that supporting both parents is critical and make three recommendations:

  1. Support services need to be developed which facilitate the nurturing of good quality relationships between children and their parent or parents.
  2. We need to engage families who may be at risk of social exclusion with services that reach the wider community with the emphasis on building social networks and consequent social capital. Faith-based organisations are well placed to do this as they already have a function in creating networks within communities. Indeed the role of these organisations in community development generally should not be underestimated.
  3. In view of the problems of engaging vulnerable people with statutory services, there is a clear need to use Government funding to increase the capacity of the third sector to work in the community to connect with people at risk of social exclusion. The development of partnerships with other non-statutory and statutory agencies will help to fill in the gap in this support in a non-threatening way.

I doubt the Salvation Army see themselves as “morally neutral” but it seems to me that they take a rather different view of how the problems of social exclusion are created than the one we’re invited to buy into by Mr Cameron.

(via Alcohol Policy UK)

Filed under: risk and protective factors

Improved buildings boost pupil morale

Children and Young People Now have the details of an interesting survey about the difference that Building Schools for the Future is having on how young people feel about their schools.

The number of pupils who said they felt safe at school most or all of the time increased from 57 to 87 per cent, while the percentage who said they felt proud of their school increased from 43 to 77.

The proportion of pupils who wanted to stay on in sixth form or go on to college also increased from 64 to 77 per cent. Vandalism, graffiti and littering were all said to be less of a problem and pupils’ general enjoyment of school went up by 10 per cent.

I mention it here because of the links between young people’s attachment to school and the risks of them having drug and alcohol problems in the future.

See also:

Filed under: risk and protective factors,

Effective Alternatives: Supporting Young People at Risk

Beverley Hughes speaking about early intervention:

How do we give very troubled young people an effective alternative to the path they’re currently set on?

This question assumes even greater urgency when we think about the most challenging, most at risk young people – those committing anti-social behaviour, caught up in a cycle of crime or violence, sliding into drug addiction, or seduced by gangs or other extremist ideologies.

Whilst this is a tiny minority of young people, the damage they cause to themselves, their families and local communities can be devastating.

But neither are these young people hopeless.

We must mobilise every force we can to prevent youngsters being seduced by the flawed belief that violence or other risky behaviour is the way to win respect.

Filed under: risk and protective factors,

State of Childhood and Parenting Tips

There’s an interesting contrast between the way the Newsround survey on childhood is reported by Newsround and The Telegraph.

Newsround’s coverage focuses on the positive:

It seems most of you feel pretty good about things and think Britain is a great place to live.

How do we know that? Well, Newsround carried out a special kids’ survey to mark our 35th birthday.

And one of the biggest findings was that most of you are happy with your lives and yourselves.

We asked 1,000 kids, aged six to 12, from all over the country and more than nine out of 10 of you said that that you liked the way you are.

They do say that it isn’t all good news and point to the lack of time that young people have with their parents and that there are things in life that scare children.

The Telegraph on the other hand is concerned about the role of fathers:

One child in four does not consider their father to be close family, according to a study published today.More boys view footballers as role models than their fathers and only one child in 10 said they would go to their father first if they had a problem.

Even among traditional families, fathers are much more in the background of children’s lives than their mothers, the research carried shows.

I think this is of interest to us because of risk and protective factors identified as being associated with future problems with drugs. We know that strong family bonds and family involvement in the lives of their children are important protective factors.

On which note I see that Parentline Plus have some tips for parents of teenagers:

Tips for the Christmas/New Year party season include:

  • Before your teen heads for a night out, talk to them about not getting too drunk, suggesting they also drink lots of water, maybe alternating between alcoholic drinks and water.
  • Talk to them about the importance of sticking with friends and not putting themselves in a vulnerable position, for example by getting a cab home alone. Also, ensure they have enough money, their mobile. etc.
  • Keep on about the importance of using an effective method of contraception to protect against unwanted pregnancy and STIs. If things don’t go to plan and they do have unprotected sex, make sure they know that they can get emergency contraception, free from their GP or local clinic within 72 hours. Emergency contraception is very safe and effective but works better the sooner it is taken.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: parents, risk and protective factors, ,

Mind the gap

Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, writing in The Guardian on why education is important:

Educational disadvantage starts at a very young age – recent research indicates that children from impoverished backgrounds fall behind children born to parents who are financially more comfortable at 22 months. By the age of three, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already up to a year behind their more advantaged peers. This gap widens as they progress through school. By the time they reach 14, many disadvantaged children are two years behind their classmates, and are destined for a lifetime of under-achievement.

This matters because how well a child does in school has long-term implications for the individual and for society. Young people who leave school with few if any qualifications are more likely to be unemployed or end up in a low skilled, low paid job, more likely to get pregnant younger, more likely to get involved in drug and alcohol abuse and more serious crime.

Filed under: risk and protective factors,

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021