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Early discipline tied to less use of drugs, alcohol in teens

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(HealthDay News) -- Correcting disruptive behavior in young children could help prevent them from using alcohol and drugs when they're teens, researchers report.

Their study included 172 boys with disruptive behavior in kindergarten who were divided into three groups. All of the boys came from low-income families in Montreal.

One group of 46 boys took part in a two-year intervention program when they were ages 7 to 9. The program included training to help the boys learn self-control and reduce impulsive and antisocial behavior. Their parents were taught to recognize problem behaviors in their sons, set clear goals and reinforce appropriate behaviors.

A second group of 84 boys were assigned to an intensive observation group. They attended a half-day laboratory testing session, were observed at school, and their families were visited in their homes by researchers. A third group of 42 boys received no intervention and acted as the control group.

All of the boys in the study were followed until age 17 in order to assess their use of alcohol and drugs. The boys in the two-year program had lower levels of drug and alcohol use from their early teens until they completed high school than the boys in the other two groups, according to the study in the Aug. 8 online edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"Our study shows that a two-year intervention aimed at key risk factors in disruptive kindergarten boys from low socioeconomic environments can effectively reduce substance use behaviors in adolescence -- not only in early adolescence but up to the end of high school, eight years post-intervention," study author Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, of the University of Montreal, said in a university news release.

"This finding is noteworthy because the effects are stronger and longer-lasting than for most substance use interventions that have been studied before," she added.

The findings suggest "that by selectively targeting disruptive behaviors in early childhood, and without addressing substance use directly, we could have long-term effects on substance use behaviors in later life," Castellanos-Ryan said.

"More research is now needed to examine how these effects can generalize to girls and other populations, and to explore aspects related to the cost/benefit of this type of intervention," she added.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how to change your child's behavior.

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