Parental involvement can help prevent underage drinking

09/30/04

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Parents play an important role in their children's underage drinking, according to a recent study by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The study, published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, shows that teens are more likely to binge drink if their parents or friends' parents provide alcohol at their home for a party.

"Parental approval of underage alcohol use is surprisingly prevalent," said Kristie Foley, Ph.D., a researcher at Wake Forest Baptist and the principal investigator of the study. Approximately 1 in 4 respondents, ages 16 to 20, attended a party where alcohol was supplied by a parent. "Parents have good intentions, thinking the teenagers won't drink and drive, that they are safer staying at home, but it sends the wrong message. Adolescents interpret this behavior as an approval to drink alcoholic beverages. Our study showed that teenagers whose parents provided alcoholic beverages for their children and their peers at a party were two times more likely to binge drink and to use alcohol within a 30 day period." Strict consequences of breaking the house rules regarding drinking also helped deter underage drinking among teens, the study found. "If a teen thinks he or she will receive severe punishment (as perceived by the teen) if they are caught drinking, they are less likely to consume alcoholic beverages," Foley said.

In an interesting twist, respondents who drank with their parents were about half as likely to indicate that they had drunk alcohol in the last 30 days and about one-third as likely to binge drink. "It appears that parents who model responsible drinking behaviors have the potential to teach their children the same," Foley said. "We did not investigate the context in which the alcohol was provided, for example, as part of a religious service or at a one-time celebration, but it appears that once something is not taboo in a household it reduces the likelihood that it will be abused. We need to do follow up studies to explore this issue further. "

The bottom line, says Foley, is know your children's friends and their parents' attitudes towards drinking. "As teens go through puberty, parental involvement does matter. They can influence their child's behavior in a positive way."

The study was conducted as part of the National Evaluation of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program. A total of 6,245 youth in 242 communities were included in the telephone survey. Teens between the ages of 16 and 20 were asked about their alcohol usage and other drinking behaviors in the last 30 days.

Providing alcohol to a minor is illegal in the state of North Carolina.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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