Parental supply of alcohol and adolescent drinking: a multilevel analysis of nationally representative data
Existing research on parental supply of alcohol analyses the effects of self-reported parental supply on adolescent alcohol consumption using individual level data. This study examined the contextual effect of parental supply of alcohol on adolescent alcohol use by examining the association between the prevalence of parental supply in each Australian state and adolescent alcohol use using a multilevel analytic framework.
Regular adolescent alcohol use, especially heavy use, is associated with many health and behavioural problems, such as violence and injury, early sexual debut and risky sexual behavior, poor mental health, adult alcohol dependence and illicit drug use. Alcohol use is common among adolescents in many western countries. For example, 30% of Grade 8 students in the United States have experimented with alcohol, and 13% reported alcohol intake to intoxication. By Grade 12, these rates have increased to 69 and 54% respectively. In Australia, 46% of 14-year-olds reported alcohol use in the past year, and this rate increased to 81% amongst 17-year-olds.
Most Western countries have a legislated minimum age for purchasing alcohol (e.g. 21 years of age in the United States, 18 years of age in Australia and the UK, and 16 years of age in Germany for beer and wine). The high prevalence of adolescent alcohol use despite these age restrictions indicates that adolescents often obtain alcohol from other sources, such as parents and/or peers.
Despite the potential harmful effects of alcohol, many parents see its use as an inevitable rite of passage in adolescence and report harm minimization as the rationale for supplying their children with alcohol. Allan and colleagues interviewed Australian parents who gave their children alcohol and found that many believed that by supplying their children with alcohol they could teach them to use alcohol responsibly and provide a safe place to consume alcohol, thereby reducing alcohol-related harm in the long term. However, there is little evidence for a protective effect of parental supply of alcohol. Indeed, a review of 22 studies found that parental supply of alcohol was associated with more adolescent alcohol use, heavy episodic alcohol intake and alcohol-related problems.
Adolescent samples (Age: 12–17) were drawn from the four National Drug Strategy Household Surveys (2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013; N = 6803). The prevalence of parental supply of alcohol, defined as the weighted percentage of sample who reported obtaining alcohol from their parents, was estimated in each state and territory across the four surveys. Three multilevel logistic regressions were used to examine the contextual effects of parental supply prevalence on adolescents’ alcohol use in the past 12 months, weekly alcohol intake and heavy alcohol intake.
Overall, adolescents’ rates of past 12 months alcohol use, heavy alcohol intake and weekly consumption between 2004 and 2013 were 40.1, 14.4 and 6.4% respectively.
The prevalence of parental supply was significantly associated with past 12 months alcohol use (OR = 1.06, p < .001) and heavy alcohol intake (OR = 1.04, p < .001) but not with weekly alcohol use (OR = 1.03, p = .189).
The results were adjusted for gender, age, socio-economic index for area, place of birth, survey year and prevalence of peer supply.
A high prevalence of parental supply in a region was associated with heavier adolescent alcohol use, regardless of whether adolescents primarily obtained their alcohol from their own parents.