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Recommended Reading

MAY - JUNE 2010

"The impact of parental modeling and permissibility on alcohol use and experienced negative drinking consequences in college"


Parental influence on teen’s drinking has been heavily researched, but relatively little is known about the impact of parental permissibility and modeling of alcohol use. This month’s Recommended Reading highlights a 2009 article from Addictive Behaviors, which clearly identifies that parent permissibility of alcohol in high school predicted teen alcohol use and negative alcohol-related consequences in college. This study used a random sample of 290 freshmen from a large, northeastern, public university. Students completed a 30-40 minute online survey on their parent’s drinking behaviors, as well as their own. The independent variables examined were student’s retrospective data on parent permissibility (limit setting), and parent modeled behavior (parent’s drinking frequency and quantity). The dependent variables were measured by student’s current drinking behaviors and frequency of experiencing negative consequences from alcohol use.

Key Findings

  • The greater the number of drinks parents set as a limit during high school, the more teens tend to report drinking on the weekends, the greater the peak number of drinks teens report consuming, and the more frequent teens report being drunk.
  • The impact of one’s family drinking environment on experienced negative consequences was shown to be a significant risk factor for male students.
  • Maternal drinking behavior is more of a risk factor for female college students.
  • Complete disapproval was more protective than approving of alcohol consumption of any kind; parents who did not allow any drinking in high school tended to have teens who in college, drank less on the weekends, had lower peak drinking, a lower frequency of drunkenness, and experienced fewer negative consequences.

Implications for Prevention Practice

Practitioners in both high schools and higher education institutions should continue to educate parents about the direct influence on their student’s drinking behaviors. Evidence from research studies, including this article, can be used to communicate to parents that mixed messages and the appeal of the “cool” parent are not effective strategies to protect their student from alcohol-related harm. It is also important to inform students about parental influences—allowing students to understand the impact of their parent’s behaviors and attitudes on their personal health and safety.

Bibliographic Reference

Abar, C., Abar, B., & Turrisi, R. (2009). The impact of parental modeling and permissibility on alcohol use and experienced negative drinking consequences in college. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 542-547.

Access to Article

Interested in reading the entire article? You can purchase the article through Addictive Behaviors, or download for free if you have a subscription. link to article