Teens are more likely to drink when their parents do

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Experts say that both parents’ attitudes and behaviors towards drinking come into play

A recent study in The Journal of Adolescent Health explored how parents’ behaviors and attitudes towards drinking alcohol can affect their teens’ drinking habits.

Ultimately, the researchers learned that teenagers are more likely to drink alcohol when their parents are regular drinkers or binge drinkers.

“The study really provides more evidence that binge drinking is not only harmful to the person drinking alcohol but also to others around them by increasing the risk of their teens drinking the alcohol,” researcher and leader of the CDC’s alcohol program Dr. Marissa Esser told CNN.

Teens learn from their parents

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 740 sets of parents and teens who were enrolled in the SummerStyles and YouthStyles surveys. 

As part of the survey, parents and teens reported on their drinking habits over the previous 30 days. They answered questions about how often they consumed alcohol, their general attitudes about alcohol, their beliefs about drinking at social events, and how often they had binge drank – four drinks for females or five drinks for males in the course of a few hours. 

While 6.6% of the teens involved in the study reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, those whose parents were regular drinkers or binge drinkers were four times as likely to also drink. 

The study found that nearly 54% of parents in the study had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, with over 27% reporting frequent alcohol consumption and over 26% drinking weekly or less. Over 35% of drinkers also reported binge drinking. Additionally, over 20% of parents had a lenient view about alcohol.

All of these factors were found to be associated with a higher likelihood of teens drinking. This was true regardless of demographic factors like age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and more. 

“Using a national United States sample, we found that adolescents whose parents binge drank or drank more than weekly, on average, regardless of whether they binge drank, were more likely to drink,” the researchers wrote. “Our results provide further evidence that underage drinking is correlated with drinking by adults, including parents.

“Parent-based interventions that promote monitoring, strong communication, and emotional support are effective.”

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