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Parental Influence on Adolescents’ Alcohol Use

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3054 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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    Alcohol consumption is one of the main threats for loss of wholesome years of life worldwide. Alcohol use may harm not only the individual drinker but also the lives of their partners, families, friends, work colleagues and their communities. (Rossow, Felix, Keating, and McCambridge, 2016). 

Adolescence is a decisive period of time in the development of drinking patterns into adulthood. (Balazs, Piko and Fitzpatrick, 2017). Assessment of modifiable threat factors for younger people’s alcohol consumption and connected harms is thus vital. Over recent years the scientific and political interest in alcohol’s harm to others’ has increased, inclusive of the attainable harms to kids from parental drinking. Various researches have examined both the possible results of prenatal alcohol exposure and the viable results on children dwelling with ‘alcoholics’ or dad and mom with significant and enduring alcohol problems.  Statistically great associations are regularly found, and they are additionally interpreted as representing causal effects in most cases. However, data may be sophisticated, and associations concern to sources of bias and confounding which may not be measured and controlled. Therefore, careful investigations of the validity of such causal inferences are needed, inclusive of careful assessments of the extent to which different explanations for observed associations can be discounted. (Rossow, Keating, Felix, & McCambridge, 2016). This review focus on two themes: one, why parents supply alcohol to teenagers, and, two, parental influence on ’s drinking problems. 

Why parents supply alcohol to underage adolescents?

Multiple studies reveal that parents are a major source of supply of alcohol to underage adolescents. ( Balazs, 2017; Gilligan, 2012; Herd, 1994; Pilatti, 2013; Ward, 2011).  In Australia, access to alcohol occurs at an earlier age for many generations due to issues in the legal age of alcohol consumption.  Twenty percent of fourteen to nineteen years old teenagers drink at least once every week.  The 2008 Australian School Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) showed that 28% of students aged 14–17 who had consumed alcohol in the preceding week had done so at risky levels. (Gilligan, Kypri, Johnson, Lynagh and Love, 2012).  A lot of Australian parents believe that it is their responsibility to teach their adolescents about alcohol consumption.  And they also think that they can have their adolescents under control regarding the quantity.  It is legal for parents, and other adults that have the permission of a teenager’s parents, to supply that teenager with alcohol in a private setting.  The most common places for teenagers under 18 years old to drink are private parties, at home or friend’s home.  Yet, the level of parental supervision of drinking is unknown, especially when it’s outside of the home.  For example, the most recent ASSAD survey found that parents were the most common source of alcohol, with 34% of students reporting that their parents gave them their last drink.

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Gilligan et al. (2012) did detailed questionnaires including demographics, sources of alcohol, experience etc. were handed to 530 students at Catholic and Independent high schools then collected upon completion.  This study showed that teenagers between age thirteen to seventeen whose parents supply them with alcohol without supervision had noticeably increased odds of risky drinking.  And the influence of parent supply might vary depending on the circumstances of supervision under which alcohol was supplied.  Research suggested that drinking is likely to increase through adolescence, irrespective of parental supervision of alcohol use, or whether alcohol is consumed with friends, inside or outside the home.

Ward (2011) came to similar results.  He surveyed 600 parents of fourteen to sixteen-year-olds about their beliefs about adolescents and their friends drinking.  65% (388 parents) completed the survey within six days after being invited.  37% of them reported supplying more than a sip of alcohol to their adolescent in the last three months.  Pilatti, Godoy, Brussino, and Pautassi, (2013) researched in Argentina which showed that many adolescents indicated that they drank alcohol because one of their parents had provided alcoholic beverages to them.  There is much prevalences of European descent in Argentina and those European immigrants have influenced Argentina’s culture with the belief that children who begin to drink with parents’ supervision will have limited and safe drinking practices during in adolescence and adulthood.  The study consisted of 367 children, aged 8–12 years (61.9% female) from the city of Córdoba, Argentina. 

In addition, the approval of drinking along with the drinking frequency also inversely related to social class.  Cahalan (1969) research suggested that black respondents may report more conservative parental drinking norms and behaviors and drank less often than whites.  5,221 respondents in total were sampled inclusive of black, white and Hispanic men and women regarding the use of alcohol.  There were major differences between blacks and whites in parental attitudes about alcohol use.  White respondents stated that they got the more parental approval of drinking than blacks.  Fifty-two percent of white men with fifty-one of white women, compared to thirty-one percent and thirty-two percent of black men and women, indicated that their dads approved the drinking of alcoholic beverages separately.  Both races have reported that moms were more restricted, which was specifically true for blacks.  Only twenty percent and twenty-five percent of black men and women claimed that they got the approval of drinking from their moms, compared to thirty-six percent and thirty-eight percent of white men and women. 

 Influence of Parental Drinking on adolescents’ drinking behavior

The second most common theme in the research on the parental influence on adolescents’ alcohol use is the influence of parental drinking on adolescents’ drinking behavior. It is widely known that family environments are mostly disrupted by parents’ alcohol abuse.  Multiple studies reviewed that exposure to parental drinking is highly connected with adverse childhood experiences.  (Dube, 2001; Rossow, 2016;  Mares, 2011; Rulison, 2016; Zhang, 1999).

Dube, et al. (2001) did a detailed examination to study the connection between parents’ alcohol abuse (mother only, father only, or both mother and father) and other different forms of adverse childhood experiences.  8,629 adult completed a questionnaire about adverse childhood experiences inclusive of child abuse, negligence, household dysfunction, and exposure to parents’ alcohol abuse.  The possibility ratio for each category of adverse childhood experience was about two to thirteen times higher if either one of the parents or both abused alcohol, compared with persons who grew up without parental alcohol abuse.

Mares, Vorst, Engels and Lichtwarch-Aschoff (2011) came to similar results.  They did an annual survey for five consistent years, which consisted of 428 Dutch families, fathers, mothers, and adolescents from two age groups (thirteen and fifteen years old) were all included.  The results revealed that parents’ alcohol-related problems were positively related with the communication about alcohol, which in turn was associated with less excessive adolescent drinking problems.  Strict parenting along with supportive social context relates to a variety of adolescent behaviors, including alcohol use.  One of the adolescents’ drinking predictors is alcohol-specific parenting practice.  A longitudinal sample of 883 adolescents (47 % female) including four measurements (between ages twelve and sixteen) was used. Latent class growth analysis revealed that five classes of parenting could be distinguished. Parents communicate a lot with their children about alcohol and rules become less restrict when adolescents grow older.  The lowest amount of drinking is associated with strict rule-setting, high quality and frequency of communication, and vice versa.

Zhang, Welte, and Wieczorek (1999) used data from the first wave of the Buffalo Longitudinal Survey of Young Men, which was s a 5-year panel study of adolescent substance use and delinquency with a probability sample of 625 males aged 16-19 from Buffalo.  A face to face structured interview was conducted for each participant in Buffalo, NY in 1993.  Mom’s and dad’s patterns were examined separately.  Their findings on the effects of closeness to mom and of dad’s drinking on adolescent’s drinking behaviors were consistent with some of the previous studies but were inconsistent with some others.  First, only dad’s drinking behavior had an independent effect on male adolescents’ drinking while mom’s drinking did not.  Second, closeness to mom had a significant effect on adolescents’ drinking, which indicated that a close relationship between mom and her child would suppress the child’s drinking behavior.

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However, unlike Dube and Mares, Rossow, Keating, Felix, & McCambridge (2016) found different results.  They did a systematic review which included twenty-one studies with 26,354 families or parent-child dyads and data was collected for over three years after exposure to parental drinking.  Only the studies that contained one or both of the mom & dad’s reports were accepted because parents’ reports are more reliable than their children.  For both teenager and young adult, the great majority (nineteen out of twenty-one studies) showed at least one positive connection between parental drinking and adolescents’ alcohol-associated outcome, when two of them showed not related.  There were eight studies regarding the possible drinking consequences of mother and father.  Three studies showed that only mom’s drinking predicted the result and two studies showed that only dad’s drinking predicted the result.  Most of the studies were poorly designed and didn’t have a transparent theoretical purpose.  In addition, there was no standard of measurement as for sipping and a full glass.   Therefore, they did not have enough capacity for causal inference.


Research studies in this literature review all focused on the influence of parental drinking and supply of alcohol on adolescents’ drinking behavior.  It can be concluded that parents play an important role in the development of adolescents’ drinking behavior.  The research conclusively finds that parents’ supply of alcohol is positively related to adolescents’ alcohol-related problems. ( Balazs, 2017; Gilligan, 2012; Herd, 1994; Pilatti, 2013; Ward, 2011).

A second important theme in the research is the influence of parental drinking on adolescents’ drinking behavior.  Research establishes that parental drinking predicted greater involvement in drinking in offspring. (Dube, 2001; Rossow, 2016;  Koning, 2012; Rulison, 2016; Zhang, 1999).

A common limitation to the research involves the temporal sequence between parents’ supply and risky drinking (for example verify if parents’ supply of alcohol leads to the beginning of risky drinking among adolescents), and whether different frequency in various circumstances of supply alcohol affects the link with adolescents’ drinking behaviors (Gilligan, Kypri, Johnson, Lynagh & Love, 1994).  Without those researches, we wouldn’t be able to identify if certain factors would cause or because of parents’ supply of alcohol, especially for younger participants.  Although most studies asked the students about the number of occasions their parents had supplied alcohol, but not about the volume supplied in each circumstance.  Some parents supply their adolescents with alcohol in “low risk” amount as a harm-reduction strategy and we don’t have any evidence that their adolescents are drinking on a “regular” basis or at a harmful level.  It may because that many parents didn’t know their adolescents’ drinking when they reported that their children’s friends were more likely to be current drinkers than their own adolescent, and/or they have social desirability bias about their own adolescent. (Ward & Snow, 2011).  Yet, a third limitation on these studies has to do with the results of binary comparison between risky drinkers and all others, inclusive of moderate and non-drinkers.  The comparison was according to the fact that four drinks per time are riskier than frequent, low-level consumption.  However, it did not mean that there was no risk with moderate drinking.

    Researchers definitely agree that future researches need to examine the temporal sequence between parents’ supply and risky drinking (for example verify if parents’ supply of alcohol leads to the beginning of risky drinking among adolescents), and whether different frequency or volume in various circumstances of supply alcohol affects the link with adolescents’ drinking behaviors (Gilligan, Kypri, Johnson, Lynagh & Love, 1994).  Another thing that researchers agree on is that very few studies have been done from countries outside North America, West Europe, and Australia/New Zealand.  They are particularly needed in order to obtain a better understanding of the possible harms from parental drinking across diverse socioeconomic and cultural settings (Ingeborg, Lambert, Patrick & Jim, 2016).  In addition, very few studies have been done regarding the relationship between peer influences on binge drinking, alcohol-associated problems, and intentions. 

Even though there are limitations to address the possible causal relation between parental drinking and children’s adverse outcomes, it is important to find out how children are affected by exposure to parents’ drinking.

This literature review serves the purpose of informing about the consequences of parental alcohol supply and use for children.  The findings in this research make it clear that parental drinking was found to be statistically significantly associated with a child’s harm outcomes.  With these and future studies and programs that can be available, it may help to get a better and detailed understanding of the complexities and possible harm between parental drinking and child outcomes. 


  • Balázs, M. Á, Piko, B. F., & Fitzpatrick, K. M. (2017). Youth problem drinking: The role of parental and familial relationships. Substance use & Misuse, 52(12), 1538-1545. doi:10.1080/10826084.2017.1281311
  • Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Croft, J. B., Edwards, V. J., & Giles, W. H. (2001). Growing up with parental alcohol abuse: Exposure to childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, 25(12), 1627-40. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(01)00293-9
  • Gillgan, C., Kypri, K., Johnson, N., Lynagh, M., & Love, S.  . (2012). Parental supply of alcohol and adolescent risky drinking. Drug & Alcohol Review, 31(6), 754-762. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00418.x
  • Herd, D. (1994). The influence of parental drinking attitudes and behavior on the drinking patterns of black and white adults. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 25(3), 353-370. Retrieved from http://mimas.calstatela.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=i3h&AN=9509296883&site=ehost-live
  • Pilatti, A., Godoy, J., Brussino, S., & Pautassi, R. (2013). Underage drinking: Prevalence and risk factors associated with drinking experiences among argentinean children. Alcohol, 47(4), 323-331. doi:10.1016/j.alcohol.2013.02.001
  • Rossow, I., Felix, L., Keating, P., & McCambridge, J. (2016). Parental drinking and adverse outcomes in children: A scoping review of cohort studies. Drug & Alcohol Review, 35(4), 397-405. doi:10.1111/dar.12319
  • Rossow, I., Keating, P., Felix, L., & McCambridge, J. (2016). Does parental drinking influence children’s drinking? A systematic review of prospective cohort studies. Addiction, 111(2), 204-217. doi:10.1111/add.13097
  • Rulison, K. L., Wahesh, E., Wyrick, D. L., & Dejong, W. (2016). Parental influence on drinking behaviors at the transition to college: The mediating role of perceived friends’ approval of high-risk drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs, 77(4), 638-648. Retrieved from http://mimas.calstatela.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=i3h&AN=116795472&site=ehost-live
  • Ward, B. M., & Snow, P. C. (2011). Factors affecting parental supply of alcohol to underage adolescents. Drug & Alcohol Review, 30(4), 338-343. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00228.x
  • Zhang, L., Welte, J., & Wieczorek, W. (1999). The influence of parental drinking and closeness on adolescent drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 60(2), 245. doi:10.15288/jsa.1999.60.245



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