Alcohol misuse among young people and the role that parents play

In Australia, 5,500 people die from alcohol-related injuries, illness and accidents each year, and, in the same time frame, 157,000 people are hospitalised due to alcohol.*

A large percentage of these ‘drinkers’ are teenagers, with adolescent alcohol misuse fast becoming a global health concern.

Substantial research suggests that parents, or guardians, play an important role in reducing young people’s risk for early initiation of alcohol and alcohol-related harms.

At the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN), Dr Marie Yap and her team conducted a systematic review of existing longitudinal studies, using a meta-analytic approach to examine the range of modifiable parenting factors that are associated with adolescent alcohol initiation and levels of later use/misuse. Studies reviewed included those that measured any modifiable parenting factors in adolescence as predictors, assessed any alcohol-related outcome variables in adolescence and/or alcohol-related problems in adulthood, and had a follow-up interval of at least one year.

Parental behaviours were categorised into 12 parenting factors, and Stouffer’s P analyses were used to determine whether the associations between variables were reliable. Where sufficient studies were available, meta-analyses were also conducted to estimate mean effect sizes.

Based on 131 studies, a total of three risk factors - parental provision of alcohol, favourable parental attitudes towards alcohol use, and parental drinking - and four protective factors - parental monitoring, parent–child relationship quality, parental support and parental involvement - were identified as longitudinal predictors of both alcohol initiation and levels of later alcohol use/misuse.

This correlated well with the original review, undertaken in 2010, which was used to inform the development of parenting guidelines for adolescent alcohol use.

“This is the first systematic review on this topic that has included a meta-analytic approach,” said Dr Yap. “In doing so, we have been able to improve on our ability to draw more concrete conclusions about the influence of parenting behaviours on adolescent drinking. Findings from this review largely confirms the evidence base behind the parenting guidelines, and our online parenting program, more authoritatively than has ever been done. The evidence is pretty clear - that the more parents drink and show favourable attitudes towards adolescent alcohol use, and when parents provide their child with alcohol, young people are more likely to drink. On the other hand, parents can protect their child from alcohol misuse by knowing about their child’s activities, whereabouts and friends, especially in the context of a strong and supportive relationship, and remain involved in their child’s life in a way that’s appropriate for the child’s age and maturity.”

Read the full research paper here.

For more information, contact Dr Marie Yap on t: 03 9905 0723, e: marie.yap@monash.edu.

*Source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation: http://adf.org.au/about-adf/our-purpose-mission-focus/

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