Young teens may be more likely to drink alcohol if their mother had multiple partners and did not consistently keep tabs on their behavior when they were 5 years old or younger, researchers from Australia found.
In an evaluation of 4158 mothers and children, mom's frequent partner change predicted greater alcohol use by their 14-year-olds, but "only when coupled with maternal reports of lower control," Professor Rosa Alati, at the University of Queensland, noted in an email to Reuters Health.
Changes in a mom's relationships coupled with higher levels of parental control were not associated with early-teen drinking, Alati and colleagues report in the journal Addiction.
A mother's parenting style plays an important role in teen drinking habits, and research hints that exposure to parents' frequent partner changes may increase risk for many risky adolescent behaviors, Alati noted.
The current study offers evidence that "maintaining attentive oversight of a child is important in the context of frequent changes in relationship status," Alati said.
Her group assessed how each mother supervised and punished their child at age 5 years, as well as the number of marriages/living partners each mom had during this period.
When Alati's team assessed the kids at the age of 14, about 84 percent had never had a full glass of alcohol, slightly more than 11 percent drank occasionally, and nearly 5 percent were problem drinkers (having as much as 5 alcoholic drinks on one occasion or at least 3 drinks monthly).
Occasional teen drinkers more often had a mom who exerted lower degrees of parental control in analyses that allowed for the child's gender, age, and the mom's relationship changes, depression, and alcohol and tobacco use during her child's early years.
Problem drinkers more often had moms who exerted low control and had one partner change compared with teens of moms exerting high control and having one partner. Problem drinking was more than twice as likely in teens of moms exerting low control and having two or more partner changes.
Alati and colleagues say further research is needed to clarify these findings and to assess a father's or partner's influence on teen drinking.