Should Parents Drink With Their Teenagers? Maybe not.

By Snouter Fancier · Jun 19, 2010 · ·
  1. Snouter Fancier
    alcohol4.jpg According to a new study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, parents who try to teach responsible drinking to their children by letting them drink at home may be setting their teens up for all kinds of alcohol related problems later in life.

    The study included 428 families with two children between the ages of 13 and 15. Parents and teens completed questionnaires on drinking habits at the outset and again one and two years later.

    The researchers found that, in general, the more teens drank at home, the more they tended to drink elsewhere; the reverse was also true, with out-of-home drinking leading to more drinking at home. In addition, teens who drank more often, whether in or out of the home, tended to score higher on a measure of problem drinking two years later.

    The findings, according to lead author Dr. Haske van der Vorst, suggest that teen drinking begets more drinking -- and, in some cases, alcohol problems -- regardless of where and with whom they drink. Drinking problems included trouble with school work, missed school days and getting into fights with other people, among other issues.

    The findings call into question the advice of some experts who recommend that parents drink with their teenage children to teach them how to drink responsibly -- with the aim of limiting their drinking outside of the home. The advice is common in the Netherlands, where the study was conducted, but it is based more on experts' reasoning than on scientific evidence, according to van der Vorst.

    "The idea is generally based on common sense," says van der Vorst, of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. "For example, the thinking is that if parents show good behavior -- here, modest drinking -- then the child will copy it. Another assumption is that parents can control their child's drinking by drinking with the child."

    But the current findings suggest that is not the case. Based on this and earlier studies, van der Vorst says, "I would advise parents to prohibit their child from drinking, in any setting or on any occasion."

    "If parents want to reduce the risk that their child will become a heavy drinker or problem drinker in adolescence," she says, "they should try to postpone the age at which their child starts drinking."

    Citation: van der Vorst, H., Engels, R. C. M. E., Burk, W. J. 'Do parents and best friends influence the normative increase in adolescents' alcohol use at home and outside the home?', Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71 (1), 105-114


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  1. Charenton
    It depends on context surely? We are often told that French and Italian family units allow their children to drink wine at family meals and this is healthy. If the parent is making the connection between stress release and alcohol consumption then I can see why this might lead to a potential problems being seeded in the formative years.
  2. Terrapinzflyer
    interesting article, but I wonder how valid the conclusions are?

    In the US, with a drinking age of 21, alcohol certainly falls prey to the "forbidden fruit" syndrome, with heavy use/abuse/ binge drinking occurring at very high rates late in high school years or into college.

    Most of my european friends, especially the dutch/germans, with their lower drinking age and greater social acceptance of introducing the young to the occasional glass don't seem to report this explosion of use/abuse that seemingly is largely connected to age restrictions / the forbidden fruit factor.

    Of course, maybe its just down to americas overall warped mentality...
  3. dyingtomorrow
    SWIM doubts there is much of a correlation.

    Everyone finds alcohol at some point in their lives. For the vast majority of people it is in their youth - the law accomplishes basically nothing as far as impeding underage drinking (and just harms many young people by giving them a criminal record). I firmly believe it just boils down to the fact that some people like alcohol and some don't - certainly related in some degree to that other news story posted about people with a particular gene getting more dopamine release i.e. pleasure from drinking. Basically everyone ends up doing a little drinking at some point in their 20s or earlier, and they either like it too much, could take it or leave it, or dislike it. SWIM highly doubts that people who don't have an affinity towards alcohol would be more predisposed to drinking it anyways just because they had a couple drinks with their parents when they were young.

    Since most people are going to drink at some point in their lives, I seriously doubt that being educated about it at an early age, in a safe and controlled environment under parental supervision could be anything but positive. This as opposed to being ignorant and blundering into it with equally uneducated and inexperienced teenage friends.
  4. Snouter Fancier
    Parents may be surprised, even disappointed, to find out they don't influence whether their teen tries alcohol.

    But now for some good news: Parenting style strongly and directly affects teens when it comes to heavy drinking - defined as having five or more drinks in a row - according to a new Brigham Young University study.

    The researchers surveyed nearly 5,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 about their drinking habits and their relationship with their parents. Specifically, they examined parents' levels of accountability - knowing where they spend their time and with whom - and the warmth they share with their kids. Here's what they found:

    • The teens least prone to heavy drinking had parents who scored high on both accountability and warmth.
    • So-called "indulgent" parents, those low on accountability and high on warmth, nearly tripled the risk of their teen participating in heavy drinking.
    • "Strict" parents - high on accountability and low on warmth - more than doubled their teen's risk of heavy drinking.
    Prior research on parenting style and teen drinking was a mixed bag, showing modest influence at best. Unlike previous research, this study distinguished between any alcohol consumption and heavy drinking.

    "While parents didn't have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking," said Stephen Bahr, a professor in BYU's College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.

    Bahr, along with co-author John Hoffmann, will publish the study in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

    The statistical analysis also showed that religious teens were significantly less likely to drink at all. That mirrors findings from this 2008 study Bahr and Hoffmann conducted on teen religiosity and marijuana use.

    Not surprisingly, a teen's peers play an important role on whether a teen consumes any alcohol. The BYU researchers note that teens in this new study were more likely to have non-drinking friends if their parents scored high on warmth and accountability.

    "The adolescent period is kind of a transitional period and parents sometimes have a hard time navigating that," Bahr said. "Although peers are very important, it's not true that parents have no influence."

    For parents, the takeaway is this:

    "Realize you need to have both accountability and support in your relationship with your adolescent," Hoffmann said. "Make sure that it's not just about controlling their behavior - you need to combine knowing how they spend their time away from home with a warm, loving relationship."

    Dateline: June 24, 2010
    Provided by Brigham Young University

  5. Terrapinzflyer
    ^^ note too it is Bringham Young University- a Mormon institution, that have strong prohibitions on virtually all drug usage.
  6. Smeg
    SWIM's parents used to run pubs years ago. SWIM has a brother ten and a half months younger than him who grew up in the same environment. Both were permitted to drink alcohol from about the age of fourteen. What SWIM and his brother found was that booze just wasn't all that mysterious, interesting and forbidden. Perhaps no enforced repression was a positive influence. This effect was mainly due to SWIM's parents permissiveness and non-prohibitionist stance on the consumption of what they sold.
    SWIM and SWIMbro eye-witnessed the long and short term consequences of drinking excessively.
    The SWIMbros saw others in very uncomfortable withdrawal. Tremor, dry retching, delirium tremens, begging for alcohol, money to purchase it, selling stuff to buy it, lying and others in the supporting cast of desperate need. This was from the early seventies to the early nineties. During this time the SWIMbros also witnessed a substantial level of violence usually connected with disaffected intoxicated fools. Alcohol related difficulties can create delusions of entitlement to special privileges that can usurp the needs of others.
    The SWIMbros still drink alcohol, but because of SWIMDAD/MUM's demystification of the process all those years ago don't have afflictions anywhere near some of the predicaments witnessed in SWIMbros childhoods.

    SWIM would say though that alcoholism itself is more of an allergy than a choice.
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