Purpose: To examine parental perceptions and behaviors with regard to teen smoking, comparing African-American and white parents, and those who did and did not smoke.
Methods: Focus groups consisting of African-American and white parents who smoked provided initial in-depth information. A computer-assisted telephone survey of a biracial sample of 311 parents of children ages 8 to 17 years provided more generalizable information regarding parental beliefs and behaviors.
Results: Nearly 50% of households either allowed teen smoking, had no ground rules, or had set restrictive rules but never communicated them to the children. Compared to white parents, African-American parents felt more empowered to affect their children's behaviors and were more likely to actively participate in anti-tobacco socialization within the home (all p values < 0.01). Among the African-American parents, 98% reported 18 years or older to be an appropriate age for teens to make up their own minds about using tobacco, whereas 26% of white parents thought 16 years to be an appropriate age (p < 0.001). Parents who smoked reported more frequent rule-making than those who did not smoke (p = 0.02), but were more likely to believe that childhood tobacco use is inevitable (p = 0.01).
Conclusions: Many parents are not engaged in antitobacco socialization in the home. Differences in the degree of parental participation may contribute to the variance in smoking prevalence between African-American and white children.