Page last updated: August 22, 2013

Investigating parental monitoring, school and family influences on adolescent alcohol use

Alcohol Research UK have published a report by Dr Kathryn Higgins and colleagues from the University of Belfast. The project investigated the relationship between parental monitoring and alcohol use trajectories and tested the role of peer-and school-level factors in influencing individual drinking trajectories and monitoring. Further, the project examined patterns of parental monitoring and their association with alcohol use change when considering other factors.

The study used data from the Belfast Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of substance use during adolescence. Between 2000 and 2011, children attending over 40 schools, colleges and special educational programmes were given questionnaires on a range of personal, social, health and substance use issues. Pupils were in their first year of secondary school (around age 11) at the start of the study (academic year 2000/2001), were surveyed annually until 2006/2007 (around age 17) whether they were still attending school, were in a further education college, or no longer in education. They were surveyed again around ten years since they first participated (2011).

This report is based on data from the first five years of the study. The study collected information from young people about the rates of parental monitoring, parental control, parental solicitation and child disclosure and information on frequency of alcohol use across each year. It also collected information on the quality of the parent adolescent relationship, using the Inventory of Peer and Parental Attachment – parent scale. Further information relating to household affluence, mental health and living arrangements (was also collected to account for other influences on rates of alcohol use.

Key findings from the project are as follows:

Children whose parents exert greater control over their free time activities tend to drink less frequently. Early control has a lasting influence on alcohol use

Higher rates of drinking in early adolescence leads to reduced levels of parent-controlled boundaries and limits at home

Being in a school with a higher proportion of frequent drinkers is a risk factor for frequent drinking

Girls who attend single-sex post-primary schools tend to drink more than pupils attending co-educational schools or male-only schools.
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