Families play an important role in helping teenagers avoid using tobacco, cannabis, and opioids, but some parents may underestimate the risk of their children using those substances. This study aimed to determine parents’ perceived likelihood of their child initiating tobacco, cannabis, and opioid use, as well as the control they have in preventing their child from using those substances. We surveyed 427 parents of children aged 0–18 years old using the online Amazon Mechanical Turk platform in the spring of 2019. We measured participants’ perceived likelihood of their child initiating tobacco, cannabis, or opioid use before the age of 18 compared to other children, using a five-point Likert scale. This perceived likelihood was dichotomized between optimistic (less likely than average) and non-optimistic (average or more likely than average). Independent variables included parental tobacco use, perceived parental control, and perceived severity of the behavior. Participants with missing data and participants with children who had already initiated substance use were excluded from statistical analyses. Mean age of participants was 38.1 years (Standard Deviation 8.4); 67% were female. Level of parental optimism was 59% for cannabis, 77% for tobacco, and 82% for opioids. Perceived severity was significantly lower for cannabis use (71/100) than tobacco (90/100) and opioid use (92/100) (p
< 0.001). Current smokers were less likely than never smokers to be optimistic about their child’s risk of initiating using tobacco (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR): 0.18 [95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.10–0.34]) or cannabis (AOR: 0.21 [95% CI 0.12–0.38]). Parental perceived likelihood of a child initiating substance use represents an understudied and potential target for substance use prevention.
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