A quiet word of fatherly advice from dad is a major factor in stopping children taking up smoking at an early age, a new study has revealed.
Boys and girls who discuss personal issues with their fathers are less likely to light up in their early teenage years.
A study of 3,500 youngsters aged between 11 and 15 showed a significant cause in children shunning cigarettes was how often they chatted about ‘things that mattered’ with their father.
Dr James White, of Cardiff University, who carried out the research, believes fathers should be encouraged to talk to their children more often.
He said: ‘This study suggests a greater awareness of parents’ and especially fathers’ potential impact upon their teenagers’ choices about whether to smoke is needed.
‘Fathers should be encouraged and supported to improve the quality and frequency of communication with their children during adolescence.
‘The impact of teenager parenting is relatively un-researched and further research is very much needed.’
Dr White’s three-year study asked youngsters to rate how often they spoke to their fathers on important issues to them – on a scale of from ‘hardly ever’ to ‘most days’.
Only children who had never lit up at the time the study began were allowed to take part.
After three years, the responses of youngsters who had remained non-smokers were compared with those who had experimented with smoking during adolescence.
Those who talked to their fathers more often were less likely to turn to cigarettes.
Dr White’s study also looked at the influence of mothers. While they did not seem to be as influential in terms of smoking, he said they were a positive influence in many other aspects of a child’s wellbeing.
As well as smoking, the children were asked about the frequency of parental communication, arguments with family members and how often they sat down to family meals.
But the study found these did not have a significant impact.
Dr White said known risk factors for smoking, such as age, gender, household income and whether parents smoked were taken into account.
He will present his findings to the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend.
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