New study shines light on teenage alcohol use and parental influence
A study of adolescents’ alcohol habits between the ages of 11 to 17 has found that the heaviest consumers of alcohol were teenagers who were under the lowest levels of parental control, and who were also the most secretive about their alcohol use.
Dr Mark McCann, University of Glasgow, led the study, which is published today, working with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast. They analysed data from 4,937 teenagers from the Belfast Youth Development Study – a longitudinal study of adolescent substance use carried out between 2000 and 2011.
The paper, entitled “Assessing elements of a family approach to reduce adolescent drinking frequency: parent-adolescent relationship, knowledge management, and keeping secrets“, is published in the journal Addiction.
The study demonstrates the association between parental monitoring and adolescent alcohol use,” said Dr McCann.
[…] our results suggest the role of parents in determining alcohol behaviour is consistently important.”
The study suggests that the determining factor was not so much the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control exercised by parents.
[W]e are hypothesising that while emotional support and closeness are important for ensuring mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home such as peer influences and social media.
Dr McCann said that youth began alcohol consumption is much different risk environment, concerning alcohol pricing, marketing, and products sold – compared to previous decades. The study finds that adolescent alcohol use appears to increase as parental control decreases and child secrecy increases. Greater parental control is associated with less frequent adolescent alcohol use subsequently.
Given that adolescence is often a critical period for the beginning of alcohol use, and that alcohol harms are not confined to children from so-called ‘problem’ families, support for adolescent parenting – rather than alcohol awareness for parents – may be a more beneficial target for public policy aimed at young people’s health behaviour.”