Does Drinking in Front of Kids Put Them at Risk for Alcohol Problems?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight: Hey, parents, think before you drink. That's the message of a new study showing that teens are more likely to get drunk, use marijuana or smoke cigarettes if they see their parents doing the same thing.

Joining us now from New York is Joseph Califano. He's the chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which conducted the study. And Mr. Califano is also the author of a new book, "How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid." Secretary Califano, great to see you.


INGRAHAM: So people watching this might think, well, this is kind of obvious. You know, if you abuse alcohol in front of your kids, then, look, the kids are going to think it's all right, and they're going to go on in their adult lives to do the same thing. You know, kick back three or four drinks at 5 o'clock. What's new in this?

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CALIFANO: Well, the point really is if kids see their parents drunk, they're many times likely to get drunk themselves every month, and they're many times likely also to use marijuana and to smoke cigarettes. And if kids drink, just drink, one of the main points of the study was that kids don't drink the way adults drink. Kids who have a drink every month, 65 percent of those kids get drunk every month. So the way the adolescent brain works, it's very important for parents to realize that. They — their kids will be a mirror of them. The whole point of my book, really, "How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid" is about parents. If the parents have — it's the parents that have a greater influence on their kids than anyone else: peers, schools, anyone else. If parents are engaged with their kids' lives, their kids are going to be fine.

INGRAHAM: When I knew you were coming on, Mr. Secretary, a friend of mine said, "Well, when I have something to drink in the evening and my child's around, I'll pour it into a juice glass, and it looks like, you know, I guess apple juice or something like that." By the way, it's not me. I'm not talking about me. It's a friend, OK? I put it in the juice glass, and you know, kids don't know anything different. Do you have little hints like that for drinking responsibly?

CALIFANO: Well, moderation is the key, and being engaged with your kids is a key. Look, if Daddy comes home and belts down three martinis the second he walks in the door and does it every single day of his life...


CALIFANO: the time your child is 3 or 4 years old, that child knows that's how you relax. When the kid is 15 and starts drinking on the weekends, they may or may not relate it to that. It is related to that. But a glass of wine, moderate drinking, that's fine. And really, the overarching message, the real message here is parents, be engaged with your kids, talk to your kids, have dinner with them frequently. Take them to religious services regularly. If you do those things, that's what's going to have the influence on your kids, and that's how to raise a drug-free kid.

INGRAHAM: Now, how important is faith in the equation?

CALIFANO: Faith is...

INGRAHAM: I would imagine the faith angle is something that — if you have faith at the core of the family, I imagine you have better luck trying to beat this.

CALIFANO: Faith is very important. There's no question, but that religion, spirituality — we — I point out in the book that we've been surveying kids for 10 or 15 years now, and consistently, a child who attends religious services regularly, once a week, say, or a kid or whom religion is an important part of his or her life — these are teens now — that child is much less likely to smoke, drink and use drugs. And that's pointed out in the book, along with a lot of other things.

I mean, you know, helping your kids with their homework, being honest with them, knowing how to answer questions. If they say, you know, "Daddy, did you use drugs," know how to answer that question. That's in the book. When a kid says to you, "Mommy, did you use drugs when you were a kid?" The first thing to recognize is that's something about your child's life. Something is happening in your child's life. Someone is offering your child something, or they're seeing their friends smoke pot, or they're going to a party. So first off say, you know, that's a good question, and here's — let's talk about it, and then answer them honestly.

INGRAHAM: Right, proactive. Right.

CALIFANO: And answer them honestly. But you're not going to have to tell them everything about it. You don't have to tell them everything about your sex life or your financial life.

INGRAHAM: Right. Mr. Califano, we appreciate it. It's a fascinating study, and thanks for coming on.

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