Parents’ Warmth and Accountability Influences Heavy Drinking in Teens

 A new study suggests that parenting style doesn’t influence whether a teen tries alcohol, but it does play an important role on whether a teen begins binge drinking, or having more than five drinks in one session. Researchers from Brigham Young University surveyed about 5,000 adolescents between ages 12 and 19 about their relationship with their parents and their own drinking habits.

The researchers specifically looked at whether parents knew where their children were and with whom (accountability), and the level of warmth they shared with their children.

They found that teens whose parents scored high on both accountability and warmth were less likely to drink heavily; those whose parents scored high on warmth but low on accountability were three times more likely to drink heavily; and those whose parents scored high on accountability but low on warmth were two times more likely to drink heavily.

Unlike prior research, this study distinguished between merely trying alcohol and drinking heavily. Stephen Bahr, a professor in BYU’s College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, and co-author John Hoffmann will publish their study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in July.

The study also found that religious teens were significantly less likely to drink any alcohol, which mirrors findings from the study they conducted in 2008 on teen marijuana use.

The researchers note that the teens in their new study were more likely to be friends with people who didn’t drink if their parents scored high on both warmth and accountability.
Bahr explained that because adolescents is a transitional period, parents sometimes have a hard time navigating through it. While peers are very important in influencing teens, parents also play an important role.

The researchers want parents to know that they need to have both accountability and support in their relationship with their teens. Don’t just try to control their behavior—combine knowing where they are with a loving relationship.

Source: Science Daily, Teens and Alcohol Study: After a Few Drinks, Parenting Style Kicks in, June 25, 2010