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New Study Suggests Your View of Alcohol May Shape Your Kid’s Relationship With Drink

High school and college students drink more when they think their parents are fine with it


As a parent, you don’t want to be that overbearing helicopter-type who freaks out every time your kid does something wrong. But a new study shows that, when it comes to drinking, your kid may be better off knowing your concerns. The study, which was published in Addictive Behaviors, found that a parent’s attitude towards drinking can affect their kid’s relationship with alcohol in high school and young adulthood.

While many parents might think that discouraging drinking will only drive their kid to partying in high school or college, the study suggests that teenagers and young adults will typically drink more when they think their parents approve of it. Jennifer Maggs, a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, said that parents often underestimate the way they influence their kid’s drinking habits.

“In the early years of college, parents can still play a role in providing positive feedback and encouragement for young adult students to make healthy lifestyle choices,” Maggs said. “One part of this can be supporting safe choices about drinking alcohol, and not reinforcing or making jokes about college being a crazy time when everyone takes risks without consequences.”

To conduct the study, researchers spoke to 687 Penn State students about their drinking habits and how they believed their parents would feel about the amount they drink. The researchers discovered that students who drank more often felt that their parents would be fine with it. The students were checked in on regularly during their four years of college to see if their drinking habits changed when they turned 21. Brian Calhoun, a graduate student in human development and family studies, confirmed that if a student became more open to drinking upon turning 21, it was usually because of their parents.

“Many students might have had parents who didn’t approve of drinking in high school, but when they went to college or got closer to turning 21, they believed that their parents’ attitudes relaxed and students’ drinking increased,” Calhoun explained.

So while you certainly don’t want to shame your kid into having an unhealthy or fear-based relationship with drinking, you may want to sit them down at the right age and let them know your concerns. It can seem unnecessary but it may keep your kid from abusing alcohol during their college years, which is an extremely common and dangerous problem in America.