There may be an association between parenting style and alcohol consumption by adolescent children; however, it is important to note the availability of alcohol treatment programs for those individuals who have chosen to engage in drinking. In an alternative to AA, self-empowering addiction treatment programs are available to adolescents who may be seeking an individualized treatment plan. It is important to focus on the treatment of underlying issues and through the use of a self-empowering approach, adolescents can be offered a practical solution for their well-being. Individuals can learn problem solving skills, good health habits, and self-control to aid them in learning how to live life with a purpose. It is important to have a treatment plan customized for a specific individual because they may want to address specific problems that traditional 12 step programs may not.
How much influence do parents have over alcohol use by their adolescent children? Can parenting style serve as alcohol treatment and prevention? Researchers at Brigham Young University examined how different parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful) related to adolescent alcohol use and heavy drinking after controlling for peer use, religiosity, and other variables (Bahr & Hoffmann, 2010).
The researchers recruited 4,983 adolescents in grades 7 through 12 as participants. Participants were asked to answer surveys about drinking habits and parenting styles of their parents. The researchers used a structural equation model to estimate the direct and indirect associations of parenting style with alcohol use and heavy drinking.
Results showed that adolescents with authoritative parents were less likely to drink heavily compared to adolescents with parents of the other three parenting styles. Religiosity was also found to be negatively associated with heavy drinking after controlling for other variables.
The researchers concluded that authoritative parenting appears to have direct and indirect associations on the risk of heavy drinking among adolescents. Authoritative parenting refers to a style with above-average monitoring as well as above-average support (whereas authoritarian parenting provides low levels of support and high levels of monitoring). Authoritarian parenting doubled the risk of adolescent heavy drinking. Indulgent parenting (low monitoring and high support) nearly tripled the risk of adolescent heavy drinking.
This study suggests that authoritative parenting helps adolescents to avoid heavy drinking even when they have peers who drink. This study is also notable because it distinguishes between alcohol use and heavy drinking.
“While parents didn’t have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking,” said co-author Stephen Bahr. “The adolescent period is kind of a transitional period and parents sometimes have a hard time navigating that. Although peers are very important, it’s not true that parents have no influence.”
“Realize you need to have both accountability and support in your relationship with your adolescent,” co-author John Hoffmann added. “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.”
Bahr SJ, Hoffmann JP. Parenting style, religiosity, peers, and adolescent heavy drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2010; 4(71): 539-543.