The use of alcohol by teens is a multi-faceted problem. The immediate effects of alcohol can result in an increased likelihood of injury, risky sexual behaviors and problems with academic achievement. Use of alcohol by teens may also create a rift in the parent-child relationship.
In addition, there are long-term consequences of initiating alcohol use early in life. Alcohol consumption is associated with certain physical health consequences, such as certain cancers, heart disease and liver disease. When teens begin using alcohol at an early age, they expose their bodies to these risks for a longer period of time.
It is important to understand the various factors that impact the decisions teens make regarding alcohol use in order for strategic education and intervention programs to be effective. Previous research has shown that peer groups and family history are significant influences, but the factors involved are varied and may differ in each teen who decides to drink.
A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administratin (SAMHSA) provides insight into the influences over a teen’s alcohol-related decisions. The information gathered by SAMHSA is issued in regular reports that highlight particular trends in substance use.
The report includes data from 2002 to 2010, gathered via the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The report finds that parents’ alcohol-related behavior is a significant predictor of teens’ behavior. The findings add to a body of research showing a connection between parents’ attitudes and behaviors about alcohol and those of their children.
According to the report, when teens live with a mother who has had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) during the past 12 months, they are more likely to have used alcohol during the past 30 days when compared with teens that did not live with a mother who had an AUD. The difference was a rate of 23.8 percent versus 14.4 percent).
Rates for youths living with a father with an AUD in the past year were not as drastic compared to youths not living with a father with an AUD, but they were still significant, at 18.4 percent versus 14.3 percent.
Differences for binge alcohol use were not statistically significant in the impact related to whether parents engaged in binge drinking.
The information in the report highlights the important connection between parents’ behaviors related to alcohol and those of their teen children. Parents who misuse alcohol often have children who misuse alcohol.
The findings also highlight again not only the connection between parents who drink and teens who drink, but also the impact that healthy choices about alcohol among parents can have on their children. Parents who make responsible choices related to alcohol consumption may be providing their children with important examples.