An Iowa State University Psychology Professor has spent 12 years studying the decision-making process of teenagers. Meg Gerrard admits, understanding the adolescent mind isn’t easy, but says parents play a critical role in presenting "images" of positive and negative behavior. If parents can "build-up" the negative aspects of the kinds of kids who engage in negative behaviors, that will reinforce those images that are wrong and make them less attractive.
Gerrard says "image" is everything when it comes to kids deciding what kind of person engages in specific risky behaviors. She says children as young as 7 have very "stable" images of what kind of person is smoking or drinking at that age. And those images can predict if that child might smoke or drink years later. Gerrard says kids cite movies, TV, and friends as strong "images" that influence their behavior, but parents play a role too.
Gerrard is Washington D.C. this week, and will talk about her research Friday afternoon before the annual meeting of the Association of Psychological Science.