Parents who had been smoking dope within the last year had a greater chance than non-users of inflicting discipline upon their spawn. Discipline can take the form of non-violent tactics, such as loss of privileges, or corporal punishment, e.g. spanking.

Some parents spank their kids. Photo: Hans Holbein

Some parents spank their kids. Photo: Hans Holbein

Where did the data come from?

This was apparent from a new study that looked at data from 2009 on substance use and parenting that appeared in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism supported the study. The data was obtained by phoning 3,023 randomly chosen parents in 50 Californian cities. The parents had at least one child aged no more than 12 at least half the time.

What the study found

Bridget Freisthler, the professor at Ohio State University who led the study, remarked that while there’s a widespread perception that smoking dope has a calming effect on folk, this isn’t true in practice: “It appears that users may be quicker than other parents to react to minor misbehaviour.” 92 percent of parents who took cannabis also consumed alcohol and were 0.5 times as likely to abuse their children physically. The alcohol might have led to physical abuse. Parents who used even more drugs were 1.45 times as likely to be abusers. Professor Freisthler commented, “We have this conception that alcohol users are different from marijuana users, but they’re not. It’s the same people.”

Possible reasons

Professor Freisthler suggested that the paranoia that sometimes arises after smoking dope could be a contributory factor. Or possibly the parents were frustrated by the behaviour of their offspring while they were trying to relax. The study indicates that parents who just had a stress-riven day or mental or physical health problems were more prone to dishing out discipline. Professor Freisthler added, “There’s certainly a subset of the population that does think it does make them better parents. The message is that it doesn’t, necessarily.”

There are parents who have sung the praises of the effects of cannabis on their actions because they were more likely to be around, they were more candid about drug use, and they consumed less alcohol. There is more research, however, that contradicts this: a study of young adults published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2015 found that smoking dope at all increased impulsivity, hostile behaviour and perceptions of hostility in others. Another study that appeared in the same publication in 2017 found that low doses of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element of cannabis) reduced stress, but higher doses increased “negative mood”.

What to do

A colleague of Professor Freisthler suggested that if parents partook of cannabis and alcohol, one should be the “designated parent” who doles out the discipline but does not indulge. Polls found that 11 percent of parents used cannabis in 2002 compared to 17 percent in 2015. Professor Freisthler stated that “There hasn’t been a lot of research in this area”, so there was little empirical evidence on the effect of cannabis on parenting and even less of the long-running implications.

Let’s talk about cannabis and sleep

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