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Parental Drinking Boosts Teen Alcohol Risks

Abuse hinders parenting ability, leading to risky environment, study says

MONDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' drinking directly influences teen drinking and also has an indirect effect through teen perceptions of parenting, especially monitoring and disciplines, a new study says.

Reporting in the February issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers analyzed data collected from 2,402 male and 2,329 female teens and their parents in Finland. The teens were asked about their alcohol use and intoxication at ages 14 and 17.5, while the parents were asked about frequency of alcohol use and intoxication, as well as their lifetime prevalence of alcohol-related problems.

"We wanted to, first, examine the extent of the relationship between the drinking behaviors of parents and those of their adolescent offspring at 14 and 17.5 years of age," corresponding author Shawn J. Latendresse, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a prepared statement.

"Second, we wanted to determine how much of that association was due to parents' drinking behaviors affecting their ability to parent responsibly, which translated into a risky or protective environment," Latendresse said.

The study found that, among parental dimensions examined, monitoring and discipline played the strongest intermediary role in associations between parental and adolescent drinking behaviors. The researchers also found that the magnitude of this role was much stronger during early adolescence, while parental drinking had a stronger effect on teen 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," Lantendresse said.

"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," Lantendresse said.

While the study 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 behaviors among adolescents as they get older and are seeking a greater sense of autonomy," the statement said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and alcohol.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Feb. 3, 2008

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