The impact of alcohol-specific rules, parental norms about early drinking and parental alcohol use on adolescents’ drinking behavior

Good news for parents. A new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines finds that alcohol-specific rules and parental alcohol use are related to alcohol use by their children.

Background: The present study explores the role of having rules about alcohol, parental norms about early alcohol use, and parental alcohol use in the development of adolescents’ drinking behavior. It is assumed that parental norms and alcohol use affect the rules parents have about alcohol, which in turn prevents alcohol use by adolescent children.

Methods: Longitudinal data collected from 416 families consisting of both parents and two adolescents (aged 13 to 16 years) were used for the analyses.

Results: Results of structural equation modeling show that having clear rules decreases the likelihood of drinking in adolescence. However, longitudinally alcohol-specific rules have only an indirect effect on adolescents’ alcohol use, namely through earlier drinking. Analyses focusing on explaining the onset of drinking revealed that having strict rules was related to the postponement of drinking initiation of older and younger adolescents. Further, parental norms about adolescents’ early drinking and parental alcohol use were associated with having alcohol-specific rules. Parental norms were also related to adolescents’ alcohol use.

Conclusions: The current study is one of the first using a full family design to provide insight into the role of alcohol-specific rules on adolescents’ drinking. It was shown that having strict rules is related to postponement of drinking, and that having alcohol-specific rules depends on other factors, thus underlining the complexity of the influence of parenting on the development of adolescents’ alcohol use.