Washington, Feb 4 : A new study has shown that parental drinking not only directly influences adolescent drinking, but also indirectly through teens' perceptions of parenting, especially monitoring and discipline received.
Adolescence is a crucial time of development on many different levels, but especially concerning the initiation and escalation of alcohol use.
The new findings highlight the impact of parental drinking and parenting practices on adolescent drinking.
"We wanted to, first, examine the extent of the relationship between the drinking behaviours of parents and those of their adolescent offspring at 14 and 17.5 years of age," said Shawn J. Latendresse, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioural Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, and corresponding author for the study.
"Second, we wanted to determine how much of that association was due to parents' drinking behaviours affecting their ability to parent responsibly, which translated into a risky or protective environment," he added.
For the study, the researchers examined data from 4,731 adolescents and their parents gathered through an ongoing Finnish population-based, developmental twin study of health-related behaviors and correlated risk factors.
Parents reported about their frequencies of alcohol use and intoxication, as well as their lifetime prevalence of alcohol-related problems. Adolescents were asked about 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 researchers found that among the parenting dimensions examined, monitoring and discipline played the strongest intermediary role in associations between parental and adolescent drinking behaviours.
They also found that 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.
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," he added.
The researchers insist on the need to recognize that what parents do as individuals and how they behave as parents both have a huge impact on their children's alcohol use.
The study is published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.