Do Parents Still Matter? The Impact of Parents and Peers on Adolescent Electronic Cigarette Use

Trucco EM, Cristello JV, Sutherland MT, J Adolesc Health (2021).


PURPOSE: Vaping among adolescents has reached epidemic levels. Identifying factors associated with electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use initiation could inform prevention programming. This study examined whether parental attitudes toward e-cigarettes impacted adolescent e-cigarette use intentions, positive expectancies of use, and actual use when accounting for adolescent attitudes and peer norms. Parents’ negative attitudes toward e-cigarettes were expected to reduce teen e-cigarette use intentions. Low e-cigarette use intentions were expected to mediate the association between parental attitudes and teen e-cigarette use. Peer norms were expected to be associated with positive expectancies. Positive expectancies were expected to mediate the association between peer norms and teen e-cigarette use.

METHODS: A sample of e-cigarette naive adolescents (n = 176, aged 14-17 years, 52% female, 82% Latinx/Hispanic) and their parents were assessed. Parents and adolescents rated harm associated with e-cigarette use. Adolescents reported their perceptions of peer e-cigarette norms, intentions, positive expectancies, and e-cigarette use. Cross-sectional models were estimated for e-cigarette use intentions and positive expectancies. Prospective mediation models (n = 142) characterized pathways to e-cigarette use.

RESULTS: Parents’ attitudes toward e-cigarettes were associated with weaker intentions. Intentions mediated the association between parental attitudes and e-cigarette use. Adolescents reporting favorable e-cigarette peer norms endorsed more positive expectancies. Positive expectancies did not mediate the association between peer norms and e-cigarette use.

CONCLUSIONS: Parents actively shape adolescent e-cigarette use even when accounting for peer norms and adolescent attitudes. Involving parents in prevention programming may help reduce vaping among teens. These associations should be examined with a larger and more diverse sample.