Role of Parents in Teenage Alcoholism

Turns out being the cool parent may not be the best strategy when it comes to helping your child learn lessons about controlled substances, like alcohol. Many parents have the misconception that all kids are going to drink and get drunk, so they might as well do it in the supervised presence of someone who cares for them. A new study, however, reveals that overseeing and condoning underage drinking may actually lead these youths to develop alcohol-related health issues in the future.

The study was a joint effort of research compiled by both American and Australian researchers. Interestingly enough, researchers conducting the study initially set out to confirm that parents who supervised their children’s underage drinking helped them become more responsible drinkers as they got older. Evidence uncovered, however, that this was not the case.

Australian researchers partnered with researchers from the University of Minnesota to study 7th-graders in both countries. In Australia, drinking laws are more lax – the legal drinking age is 18 as compared to 21 in the United States. However, while the legal drinking age in Australia is 18, it’s not uncommon for parents to allow their 15 and 16 year-old teenagers to drink freely in their presence.

After comparing youngsters in the U.S. who were not allowed to drink to those of the same age in Australia who were allowed to drink, researchers found that regardless of where the children were raised, those who were allowed to drink at a younger age were more likely to develop problems with alcohol later in life then those whose parents didn’t allow it. In fact, over a third of Australian 9th graders were more likely to binge drink and experience problems associated with alcohol such as involvement in fights and drinking to the point of passing out. Twenty-one percent of kids in the U.S. whose parents allowed underage drinking had similar problems.

Moreover, Dutch studies on the subject conclude that the availability of alcohol within the home has a bigger impact on teenage drinking habits than whether or not the parents actually drink alcohol or not. Previous research has also suggested that children of very strict parents are more likely to drink in excess. Those in the medical community seem to agree that family dynamics have a big impact on whether or not teens develop problems with alcohol.

Even though there is no foolproof method for ensuring teenagers grow up to drink responsibly, it appears that raising them to drink in a controlled setting is not a good predictor of how they will behave when forced to make decisions on their own. The teenage years are some of the most vulnerable. Teaching these youngsters to refrain from drinking still seems the safest bet.