On September 13, 2000, SADD Chief Executive Officer Stephen Wallace and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group Executive Vice President John Conners announced the results of their first "Teens Today" study. The findings, which were based on a national study of teens and parents of teens, reveal widely divergent views between many teens and parents on the attitudes and behaviors of today's teenage population.
The report shows that parents and teens are far apart in their assessment of critical issues in teens' lives, how influential parents are to their teens, and how they communicate about such issues as alcohol and drug use, drinking and driving, sex, violence and driving habits. Further, the study shows that teens in families lacking effective communication are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors. The complete study results are available on this Web site under the Study Results section.
"This report provides a window to the world of teen behaviors and attitudes," said SADD's Wallace. "Just as important, it underscores the disconnect between the real world kids live in and the "make-believe' world many of their parents think they live in."
Among the findings about chief teen concerns from responses of 405 parents and 687 teenagers in grades nine through 12:
The survey results demonstrate the positive effects of open dialogue between parents and teens. Teens who say they discuss serious issues with their parents "during normal conversation" are more likely to want to talk to their parents about these issues. Additionally, parents in those families are credited with more influence on their teen's behaviors.
Wallace points to drinking and driving habits as one example of how powerful open communication can be. The study results show the probability a teen would drive after drinking is reduced from 21 percent to 15 percent among those who say they engage in open, honest communication with their parents.
SADD and Liberty Mutual announced several initiatives to shrink the communication gap between parents and teens. With Liberty Mutual's sponsorship, SADD will offer the Family Focus pilot program, a series of school-based forums through which parents and teens will come together and openly discuss such concerns as alcohol and drug use, sex and violence, and driving habits. The Teens Today partnership continues a long commitment by SADD and Liberty Mutual to keeping young people alive and safe. Liberty Mutual offers a program, "Avoiding Collisions: How to Survive the Teenage Driving Years," that includes a 15-minute video and already has been viewed by more than one million high school students and many of their parents across the U.S.
"More than 5,700 young people died in motor vehicle crashes and 554,000 were injured in 1998, making these incidents the number-one killer of young people in the United States," said Conners, citing the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "We need to continually talk to our young drivers about the importance of safe driving habits."
SADD and Liberty Mutual also have developed a series of "Family Communication Tips" to help parents and teens overcome obstacles to effective dialogue (article is listed below). Another way parents and teens can close the communication gap between them is by discussing and signing the SADD Contract for Life.
A new brochure, "Opening Lifesaving Lines: Negotiating a Contract for Life," guides parents and teens through the Contract for Life communication process.
Families can obtain copies of the SADD Contract for Life or the "Opening Lifesaving Lines" brochure by calling 1-877-SADD-INC. The Contract for Life also can be printed from this Web site. Free copies of the "Avoiding Collisions" video are available from a local Liberty Mutual office or by calling 1-800-4-Liberty.