Page last updated: Friday, April 11, 2008
Parental drinking and parenting practices influence adolescent drinking – be firm, but not too tough, it can be counter productive
New findings show that parental drinking both directly influences adolescent drinking, as well as indirectly through adolescent perceptions of parenting, especially monitoring and discipline received.

Researchers examined data from 4,731 adolescents (2,402 males, 2,329 females) and their parents (87% with data from both parents, 13% with data from only one parent), gathered through an ongoing Finnish population-based, developmental twin study of health-related behaviours and correlated risk factors. Parents were asked about their frequencies of alcohol use and intoxication, as well as their lifetime prevalence of alcohol-related problems. Adolescents reported on perceptions of the parenting that they received, as well as their own prevalence of alcohol use and intoxication at 14 and 17.5 years of age.

The findings were twofold: first, among the parenting dimensions examined, monitoring and discipline played the strongest intermediary role in associations between parental and adolescent drinking behaviours; and second, the magnitude of this mediating role was much stronger during early adolescence, whereas parental drinking had more direct associations with their offspring’s drinking in later adolescence.

“These two dimensions of more parental control – monitoring and discipline – may be useful targets for the development of intervention studies,” said Windle. “The second finding is important in identifying the differential influences of parenting behaviours at different stages of adolescent development. From a developmental perspective, older adolescents are much more influenced by other socialisation agents, especially peers, and perhaps stronger genetic influences, whereas in early adolescence parenting practices are more highly influential. These findings are important for designing age-appropriate interventions whereby parenting practices may play a prominent role in early adolescence, but peer, parental drinking, and other factors may need to be focused on in later adolescence.”

“With respect to individual aspects of parenting, our analyses show that parental alcohol use, intoxication, and problem drinking symptoms are consistently associated with decreases in monitoring and increases in discipline,” said Latendresse. “Decreases in monitoring are related to higher levels of adolescent alcohol use at age 14 and more frequent intoxication at both 14 and 17.5. Likewise, increases in discipline are linked to more frequent use and intoxication, but only when adolescents are 17.5. Although these findings are consistent with the protective effects of parental monitoring, it is important to note that excessive discipline may actually have the unintended effect of conveying greater risk for alcohol-related behaviours among adolescents as they get older, and are seeking a greater sense of autonomy.”

Both Latendresse and Windle spoke of the need to recognise that what parents do as individuals and how they behave as parents both have a huge impact on their children’s alcohol use.

“This awareness provides us with some tangible targets for prevention,” said Latendresse, “that is, knowing where one’s children are, what they are doing, etc., and not exerting excessive control or discipline to the extent that it actually subverts a child’s need to develop their independence.”

“Furthermore,” added Windle, “this awareness may be viewed as an empowering finding for parents; and, ideally, parents in need will be proactive and seek assistance to reduce their own drinking behaviour and/or strengthen their parenting skills.”

Source: Parenting Mechanisms in Links Between Parents’ and Adolescents’ Alcohol Use Behaviors. Shawn J. Latendresseet al. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Volume 32 Issue 2 Page 322-330, February 2008

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