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Original Research

Youth alcohol and drug use in rural Ireland - parents' views

Submitted: 1 February 2009
Revised: 11 June 2009
Published: 17 August 2009

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Author(s) : Van Hout MA.

Marie Claire Van Hout

Citation: Van Hout MA.  Youth alcohol and drug use in rural Ireland - parents' views. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1171. (Online) 2009. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Drug availability is increasing throughout Ireland due to a convergence of rural and urban cultures during the last decade of economic growth and prosperity. Rural Irish youth may now have a heightened risk for problematic alcohol and drug use due to increased exposure to drugs, urban contact with peer drug users, unstructured recreation time and poor parental monitoring. Rural parents may perceive their children to be less at risk, and often struggle more than their urban counterparts to identify and respond to their children’s alcohol and drug use. The aim of this research was to provide an exploratory account of rural parents’ perspectives on alcohol and illicit drug use among youth in Ireland.
Methods:  A convenience sample of parents with adolescent children was selected at a parent–teacher evening at 3 rural schools, with the facilitation of school completion officers (34 mothers and 21 fathers, n = 55). Semi-structured interviews were conducted which included questions relating to the parents’ perceptions of youth drug and alcohol use, both in terms of recreational and problematic use in their communities, levels of drug availability, risk perceptions, settings of adolescent substance use, service provision and drug information; and not necessarily with regard to their own children. Following transcription of the interviews, a content and thematic analysis was conducted in order to identify areas of similar and contrasting opinions, and various formulations were compared and contrasted in order to ground the information firmly in the data garnered.
Results:  The results suggested parental concern with regard to increased rural drug exposure for youth in local rural communities. The majority of parents were aware of youth alcohol use but were concerned about all drugs, not aware of specific differences in drug-related risk, and had difficulty comprehending harm-reduction principles. Most parents recognised the need for greater parental monitoring, awareness of free time accountability, improved parent–child discourse, and visibility of services.
Conclusion:  Life in contemporary rural Ireland is influenced by dominant social changes in terms of the normalisation of alcohol and drug use in youth subcultures, with increased fragmentation of traditional rural family norms and values, emerging acceptability of alcohol and drug use in recreation time and the widespread availability of alcohol and drugs. There is a need to target rural parents using a community development approach in order to provide drug education, service visibility and family support for those experiencing problematic substance use.

Key words:  alcohol and drug, parents, youth drug and alcohol use.

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