Are children whose parents use Cannabis more likely to try it themselves?

Published Mar 11, 2019 09:00 a.m. ET

Some people believe that each individual will make their own choices as adults regardless of parental influence, but the science appears to show a different story. New cannabis research has now measured precisely how much more likely children that grow up after being exposed to marijuana use are to pick up the habit themselves later on in life. The good news is that cannabis is now legal in Canada so criminal repercussions are no longer something to fear. However,it is important to note how societal changes can shift so much mainly due to personal experience and what sort of impacts that may have on the future.

Cannabis research study

A trial was conducted with a focus on how the mother’s use, may affect their offspring’s future marijuana use. Researchers followed mothers who used cannabis during the first 12 years of their children's lives. The goal was to measure the mother's paternal influence over the likelihood of their child trying marijuana, as well as how it might affect how early they would choose to use it. The study was conducted by the Harvard TH Chan School of public health who analyzed the findings of 2586 mothers, and 4440 children between 1979 and 2014. Timing the average age that children with mothers who partook in marijuana use vs. the ones whose parents did not. Considered for possible fluctuations in numbers are the family's economic status and environmental factors including their social environment. The results held true no matter which elements of possibility were analyzed.

The results

Mothers who showed maternal marijuana use up until their children turned 12 years old had children who were much more likely to use cannabis themselves at some point in life.

Adulthood- Once the children studied all became adults’ researchers asked participants how many of the now grown children considered themselves to be regular cannabis users. 67.2% of the offspring from marijuana using mothers became frequent cannabis consumers compared to only 37% of the children whose mother did not use the substance.

Teenagers- For this study teenagers are deemed between the ages of 13 and 18. The researchers from Harvard found that the median age amongst children who experimented with cannabis during their teen years came mostly from mothers who used marijuana. The median age of a teenager’s first exposure from marijuana using mothers was much lower at 16 years of age, where those whose parents did not use cannabis held an average age of 18.


Childhood- The offspring from mothers who used cannabis were three times more likely to try cannabis before turning 13 years old

Other study findings

The average age of use was only one aspect that was looked at during this extensive cannabis research study. Researchers were also looking for other potentially dangerous side effects of youth being exposed to marijuana se. The second portion of the study focused on how children appeared to be the most adversely affected when they chose to use cannabis early in life leading to more frequent displays of lower IQ, lack of concentration, impulsivity, inability to make decisions, and some cognitive effects. However, most of those kids outgrew these symptoms in adulthood, so it is unclear how long lasting these effects are.

Should you worry if you smoke cannabis and have children?

Though the results of this study are incredibly negative, it is important to focus on other aspects of the equation that are not touched on by researchers here. What is perhaps the most significant is the difference that education about cannabis can make for children with parents who enjoy marijuana. New research shows that a lack of knowledge appears to be the number one driving factor for the discrepancies between using and non-using parents and their children. Kids who are now being educated on cannabis in a real and informational way are 3 times less likely to use it in their youth no matter what their mothers may choose to use. Most parents know that if you turn something into a forbidden topic, it peaks a kid’s interest immediately. Instead of fearing for your child's exposure to marijuana use, educate them on the benefits, as well as the adverse effects they could face in choosing to use cannabis at such a young age. Have an honest and open discussion about it in the same way you would alcohol. Adults are not perfect beings, and our children will always be more likely to lean towards what they know and are more comfortable with no matter what our vices of choice may be. The most effective tool in a parent’s arsenal is education with real facts and information.



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