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Parental influence on teenagers attitudes towards alcohol

Research has consistently shown that indirect parental influences (e.g., permissiveness of drinking) are associated with increased drinking, heavy episodic drinking, and negative alcohol-related consequences.1 As levels of parental restrictiveness and supervision regarding supervised alcohol use increased, adolescent alcohol use decreased or was less likely to occur. 2

The family environment

Parental norms for alcohol use are not static and are likely to change with teenage development. Even without actually providing alcohol to their child, parents can play a role by setting the environmental context in which drinking might occur3. It is estimated that 13% of Australian children aged twelve years or less are exposed to an adult who is a regular binge drinker4. Parents drinking in front of children can display to kids pro-alcohol attitudes.5

Parents imposing strict rules related to teenage alcohol use is overwhelmingly associated with less drinking and fewer alcohol-related risky behaviours. 6 With increased experiences drinking with parents, adolescents consider the risks to be less likely. 7 Studies have found more teenagers’ chose not to drink alcohol if parents did not permit them to drink at home or did not provide them with alcohol to take to parties or social events. 8The later permission was delayed, the less likely teenagers were to consume alcohol.9

Delaying the age that your child starts to drink alcohol (initiation) is a protective factor against harm. There are several predictors of delayed alcohol initiation and lower levels of later drinking. They include:

  • parental modelling of drinking behaviour
  • alcohol-specific communication
  • disapproval of teenage drinking.
  • rules about alcohol
  • parental monitoring
  • parent-child relationship quality
  • family conflict, parental support
  • parental involvement
  • general communication 10

Adolescents who are poorly monitored begin alcohol consumption at an earlier age, they tend to drink more, and are more likely to develop heavier drinking patterns 11. Parents can often feel pressure from other parents to provide alcohol. An important factor in allowing adolescents to drink, includes observing other parents’ behaviour 12 and feeling compelled to follow suit. 13

Benefits of parents choosing to delay teenage alcohol use until 18 years of age

The initiation of alcohol use at a young age may increase the likelihood of negative physical and mental health conditions, social problems and alcohol dependence. Once teens begin drinking, many become regular consumers of alcohol.

The reasons why parents should delay teenage alcohol use:

  • When parents do supply alcohol, studies have found this also increased the probability of the teens risky drinking14
  • A recent Australian study found adolescents who were supplied alcohol by parents had higher odds of drinking whole beverages than those not supplied by parents.
  • Parental supply was still associated with a doubling of the odds of drinking.15

    Providing alcohol to teenagers is associated with alcohol-related harms:

  • There is no evidence to support the view that parental supply protects from adverse drinking outcomes by providing alcohol to their child 16
  • A longitudinal study found that adolescents in their mid-teens were 2.7 times more likely to drink full serves of alcoholic beverages if their parents had been supplying them with alcohol in their early teen years17
  • The evidence suggests that delaying the onset of drinking reduces long-term consumption levels into adulthood18
  • Regular drinking in adolescence is an important risk factor for the development of dependent and risky patterns of use in young adulthood19
  • One of the strongest predictors of alcohol-related harms in young adulthood was being frequently drunk in adolescence, suggesting that an early start to risky drinking may lead to later problematic alcohol use.20
References

Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg 590.
 

2 Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg 600.
Clark, D. B., et al. (2008). "Parental supervision and alcohol use in adolescence: developmentally specific interactions." J Dev Behav Pediatr 29(4): pg7.
 

3 Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg 600.

Taskforce, P. H. (2009). Preventing alcohol-related harm in Australia: technical report 3. Australia: The healthiest country by 2020. N. P. H. T. b. t. A. W. Group. pg14. 

5 Jackson, C., et al. (2012). "Attributes that Differentiate Children Who Sip Alcohol from Abstinent Peers." Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42(11): 1687-1695.
BARBARA J. MCMORRIS, P. D., † RICHARD F. CATALANO, PH.D.,† MIN JUNG KIM, PH.D.,† and P. D. JOHN W. TOUMBOUROU, † AND SHERYL A. HEMPHILL, PH.D.† (2011). "Influence of Family Factors and Supervised Alcohol Use on Adolescent Alcohol Use and Harms: Similarities Between Youth in Different Alcohol Policy Contexts." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs: 418-428.

6 Mares, S. H., et al. (2012). "Parental alcohol-specific rules and alcohol use from early adolescence to young adulthood." J Child Psychol Psychiatry 53(7): pg798.
Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg591.

Kaynak, O., Winters, K.C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K., & Arria, A.M. (2014). "Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?" J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 75: pg 601.

Hayes, L., Smart, S., Toumbourou, J. W., & Sanson, A. (2004). Parenting influences on adolescent alcohol use. A. I. o. F. Studies, Report prepared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. pg70. 

Hayes, L., Smart, S., Toumbourou, J. W., & Sanson, A. (2004). Parenting influences on adolescent alcohol use. A. I. o. F. Studies, Report prepared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. pg70. 

10 Gilligan, C., & Kypri, K. (2012). "Parent attitudes, family dynamics and adolescent drinking: qualitative study of the Australian parenting guidelines for adolescent alcohol use." BMC Public Health 12: pg1.
Mattick, R. P., et al. (2017). "Parental supply of alcohol and alcohol consumption in adolescence: prospective cohort study." Psychological Medicine 47: pg275.

11 Hayes, L., Smart, S., Toumbourou, J. W., & Sanson, A. (2004). Parenting influences on adolescent alcohol use. A. I. o. F. Studies, Report prepared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. pg70.
 
12  Gilligan, C., et al. (2012). "Changing parental behaviour to reduce risky drinking among adolescents: current evidence and future directions." Alcohol Alcohol 47(3): 349-354. pg351. 
 
13  Gilligan, C., et al. (2016). "Acceptability of alcohol supply to children – associations with adults’ own age of initiation and social norms." Health Promotion Journal of Australia: pg567.
 
14 Gilligan, C., & Kypri, K. (2012). "Parent attitudes, family dynamics and adolescent drinking: qualitative study of the Australian parenting guidelines for adolescent alcohol use." BMC Public Health 12: pg7.
 

15 Mattick, R. P., et al. (2017). "Parental supply of alcohol and alcohol consumption in adolescence: prospective cohort study." Psychological Medicine 47: pg271.

16 Mattick, R. P., et al. (2017). "Parental supply of alcohol and alcohol consumption in adolescence: prospective cohort study." Psychological Medicine 47: 

17 Mattick, R. P. (2014). Parents may be putting their children on a path to drinking, University of New South Wales.

18 Hayes, L., Smart, S., Toumbourou, J. W., & Sanson, A. (2004). Parenting influences on adolescent alcohol use. A. I. o. F. Studies, Report prepared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. pg70.
 

19 Taskforce, P. H. (2009). Preventing alcohol-related harm in Australia: technical report 3. Australia: The healthiest country by 2020. N. P. H. T. b. t. A. W. Group. pg16. 

20  Vasallo, S., & Sanson, A. (Eds.) (2013). The Australian Temperament Project. The first 30 years. A. I. o. F. Studies.