Page last updated: September 29, 2015

Effects of a combined parent-student alcohol prevention programme on intermediate factors and adolescents’ drinking behaviour

In the Netherlands, a study suggests that limitsetting on drinking by parents in combination with adolescent education resulted in lower levels of the children’s’ drinking.

The combination worked at least partly by encouraging parents to communicate stricter limits to their child’s drinking. Rule setting had a direct effect, but was also found to bolster the child’s selfcontrol, which in turn led to lower consumption.

The cluster randomised trial including 3,245 Dutch early adolescents (M age = 12.68, SD = 0.50) and their parents were randomised over 4 conditions: (1) parent intervention, (2) student intervention, (3) combined intervention, and (4) control group. The study measured the amount of weekly drinking at age 12 to 15; baseline assessment (T0) and 3 followup assessments (T1–T3) were carried out.

The programme’s parental limit-setting component was based on the Örebro programme developed and tested in Sweden. It entailed a brief presentation from an alcohol expert at the first parents’ meeting in each school year on the adverse effects of youth drinking and of permissive parental attitudes to drinking. After this parents of children from the same class were meant to meet to agree rules about their children’s drinking. The other component was classroom-based education providing the children with alcohol-related information and skills-training.

Only when parental and child components were combined did the programme reduce adolescents drinking. The effects were several times greater and more consistent than those typical of educationbased alcohol prevention programmes; at the final 34-month follow-up, for every four pupils allocated to parenting plus alcohol education, one was prevented from drinking weekly and also one from drinking heavily each week at age 15 (due to increase in strict rule setting and adolescents’ subsequent self-control).

The current study is one of the few studies reporting sequential mediation effects of youth intervention outcomes. It underscores the need of involving parents in youth alcohol prevention programmes, and the need to target both parents and adolescents, so that change in parents’ behaviour enables change in their offspring.

Source: Effects of a combined parent-student alcohol prevention programme on intermediate factors and adolescents’ drinking behaviour: a sequential mediation model. IM Koning, D MacKinnon, M Maric M et al. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: 2015, 83(4), p. 719–727.

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