Psychological reactance and adolescent cannabis use: the role of parental warmth and monitoring
Reactance is a psychological state or trait typified by resistant responses to persuasive communications. It is associated with many negative health outcomes, including risky substance use; however, how to mitigate reactance effects on substance misuse and other health-relevant behaviors is not well understood. The current study examined links between parental antecedents of reactance and adolescents’ responses to preventive cannabis communications and subsequent usage intentions.
Two in-school surveys were administered to US sixth through eighth grade students. In Study 1, path models tested multivariate linkages among parenting variables, reactance, cannabis attitudes and intentions, and outcomes associated with cannabis use. In Study 2, participants were assigned randomly to receive a persuasive prevention or control communication. Measures included reactance, parental monitoring, parental warmth, and adolescents’ cannabis attitudes and usage intentions.
Results: showed parental warmth (versus monitoring) moderated the relation between monitoring and reactance. High monitoring was a protective (anti-reactance) preventive factor only when combined with warmth; reactance mediated relationships between parenting practices, cannabis attitudes, and usage intentions. Reactance also was directly associated with resistance to persuasion.
Analyses illustrated the importance of parental practices that mitigated adolescent reactance, and subsequent cannabis attitudes and usage intentions. Reactance minimized the persuasive power of preventive appeals. Prevention messages designed to minimize reactance are clearly recommended. Such communications should focus on educating parents about appropriate parenting styles involving high levels of responsiveness, encouraging warmth along with monitoring to make children feel their freedom and Independence is not threatened by autocratic, illogical rules. Effective monitoring is improved significantly if accompanied by high levels of parental warmth.