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Teens, Alcohol and Parenting Style

Researchers have some good news and some bad news for parents who are concerned about underage drinking. The bad news is that despite your warnings, your kids are probably going to try alcohol at some point.  The good news is that depending upon your parenting style, you may have some sway when it comes to how much they drink.

Experts have identified three main parenting styles:  Authoritarian, where parents strive to always be in control of their child’s behavior and tend to exhibit little warmth toward their kids.  Permissive parents have few rules and boundaries and are generally warm and accepting of their child’s behavior – good or bad.  Authoritative parents provide clear expectations and consequences but are also warm and communicative with their children.

According to researchers from Brigham Young University, of the three parenting styles, Authoritative has the best results when it comes to preventing kids from drinking heavily.

In surveys of 5,000 kids between the ages of 12 and 19,  those with Authoritarian parents were found to be twice as likely to participate in heavy drinking while kids with Permissive parents were three times as likely to overdo it.  But those with Authoritative parents – rating high on accountability and warmth -were less prone to be involved in heavy drinking.

Study co-author John Hoffman says the survey results highlight the importance of finding balance in your parenting style.

“Realize you need to have both accountability and support in your relationship with your adolescent.  Make sure that it’s not just about controlling their behavior — you need to combine knowing how they spend their time away from home with a warm, loving relationship.”

Another finding of note:  The parental voice of reason was found to be strongest in kids from religious backgrounds who were found to be “significantly” less likely to drink at all.

Since parenting style will obviously impact a child’s development and behavior, it’s really no surprise to find that it plays a part in determining which kids will overindulge in drinking and which kids won’t.  But what is interesting is that those kids who were raised in families high on accountability and warmth tended to associate with other children who were raised the same way.  And with that positive peer support, these kids were better equipped to avoid the pressure to overdo alcohol.

Image: Looking Glass/Flickr

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