Whether adolescents who are allowed to drink alcohol at home go on to have negative involvement with alcohol is dependent on the family structure, found a new study from University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).
“Some parents believe allowing their children to drink at home, in a supervised and controlled environment, helps them learn to drink responsibly,” study author Ash Levitt, senior research scientist at RIA, said in a news release. “On the other hand, many believe allowing adolescents to drink at home sends the wrong message, by condoning an illegal behavior that can have potential, significant health risks.”
Researchers found that, while neither of these perspectives is 100 percent accurate, the outcome is greatly dependent on whether or not the teen lives in an intact family— one where children live with both biological parents. “Non-intact” families include blended— i.e. one biological parent and one stepparent— or single-parent homes.
Over time, teens from intact families that were allowed to drink at home had the lowest levels of alcohol use and problems, researchers found. Teens who lived in non-intact family environments, and were allowed to drink at home, had the highest levels of negative alcohol involvement.
In their study of 772 individuals, researchers controlled for factors such as family history of alcohol problems, parenting practices and demographic characteristics.
The study began in 1989 and the average participant age was 15 years old. Over the next 15 years, the group was followed and check on four times.
The team noted that their findings have important implications for prevention and intervention of adolescent alcohol involvement.
“Treatment can be tailored if adolescents are identified as living in potentially risky environments,” Levitt said in the news release. “Efforts also could be made to educate parents about potentially risky outcomes associated with allowing their children to drink at home according to their specific family environment.”
According to the American Medical Association, up to 30 percent of parents report allowing their adolescents to drink alcohol at home under at least some circumstances.