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Survey Examines Parent and Teen Views on Sexuality, Alcohol, and Drug Use

September 29, 2000

Teen Today 2000, a survey released this month by the Liberty Mutual Group and Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD), explores teen attitudes and behaviors concerning issues of drinking and driving, alcohol use, drug use, sex, and violence.

SADD is a national education and prevention organization that represents teens in more than 25,000 school-based chapters nationwide.

Surveys were conducted in March 2000 via phone interviews of 405 parents of teenagers across the country and written responses of 687 teenagers in grades nine through 12. Teens surveyed were both SADD members and non-members.



  • Both teens and parents ranked HIV and STDs as their number one concern with 81% of teens and 71% of parents reporting that they are extremely, very, or concerned about this issue.

  • Teens ranked teenage pregnancy third with more than 77% reporting that they are extremely, very, or concerned about this issue. Parents ranked teen pregnancy fourth with 69% reporting this level of concern.

  • Teens ranked teen suicide fifth among their top issue, with nearly 62% reporting they are extremely, very, or concerned about this issue. Parents ranked teen suicide seventeenth with 36% reporting concern.

  • Teens ranked casual sex as their twelfth concern. In contrast parents ranked casual sex as their fifth concern.

Sexual Behavior

  • When asked about their attitudes toward teen sexual behavior:
    • 27% of teens said, "I'm going to wait until I'm married."

    • 24% of teens said, "I'm going to wait until I'm in a serious relationship."

    • 19% of teens said, "It's no big deal to have sex."

    • 4% of teens said, "I feel pressure to have sex."

  • When asked how their teens felt about teen sexual behavior:
    • 33% of parents said their teen, "will wait until he/she is married."

    • 23% of parents answered that their teen does not feel that "it's a big deal for him/her to have sex."

    • 19% of parents said their teens, "will wait until he/she is in a serious relationship."

    • 15% of parents said that their teen, "knows when it's the right time for him/her."

    • 5% of parents answered that their teen "feels pressure to have sex."

Drug Use

  • Nearly 69% of teens reported that they have an opportunity to use drugs while only 56% of parents believed this to be true.

  • 14% of teens said they use drugs regularly.

Alcohol Use

  • 19% of teens said they drink regularly, and an additional 21% said they drink occasionally.

  • Only 2% of parents said their teens drink regularly, and 5% of parents said their teens drink occasionally.

  • 29% of teens said the reason why they drink is to get drunk.


  • The majority of parents (98%) felt that they communicated with their teen about alcohol use, drug use, and sex. Yet, only 76% of teens said these discussions actually took place.

  • 38% of teens said they wanted their parents to talk to them about alcohol use, 36% about drug use, and 36% about sex.

  • 62% of parents said their teen wanted to talk to them about alcohol use, 64% about drug use, and 58% about sex.

  • 57% of teens said they wanted to talk mostly about these issues to their friends; 15%, to their parents; 15%, to their older sibling; 7%, to their other adults; 1%, to clergy, and 5%, to no one.

  • Teens said their friends have the greatest influence on them. Parents undervalued the influence friends have on their teens.


  • 95% of parents said they trust their teen. Yet only 79% of teens think their parents trust them.

  • 67% of parents said they trust their teen to be responsible in making decisions regarding alcohol use, drug use, and sex; 28% agree somewhat; and 2% neither agree nor disagree, disagree somewhat, or disagree completely.

The findings show that teens and parents have widely differing opinions on the importance of issues facing teens today. In addition, a considerable gap exists between the percentage of teens who say they engage in unsafe behaviors and the percentage of parents who think their teens are behaving in these manners.

The survey results highlight significant differences in perception between parents and teens. Beyond that, the findings have noteworthy differences such as parents exhibiting concerns about issues that fail to register strongly with teens.

The research suggests that the of lack of effective communication between parents and their teens is the primary reason for these differences. The authors note that teens who engage in open, honest communication with their parents about the issues they face daily are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors then teens who do not. Similarly, teens report their parents are more influential concerning their behaviors when good, open communication is the rule in their family, rather than the exception.

Finally, the authors point out, despite reports to the contrary, most teens do make healthy decisions about the pressure they face every day and they are more likely to choose wisely when they have someone to talk with about these issues.

For more information:

Liberty Mutual Group, 175 Berkeley Street, Boston MA 02117; Phone: 617/357-9500, ext. 43152; Fax: 617/574-5637; Web site:

SADD Inc., P.O. Box 800, 255 Main Street, Marlboro, MA 01752; Phone: 800/787-5777; Fax: 508/481-5759; Web site:

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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
See Also
More Statistics on Young People and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.