Parents Play a Big Role in Teen Alcohol Use
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Environmental factors such as sources/locations of alcohol use, prevention messaging, parental communication, and perceptions of peer/parent standards and expectations surrounding underage drinking can influence alcohol use in youth.
So where are youth in Cortland County drinking and getting access to alcohol? The answer to both questions is at home. According to a 2019 survey of 2,000 7-12th graders in Cortland County, students that have used alcohol in their lifetime overwhelmingly report drinking alcohol at their home (57.1%) or at someone else’s home (53.3%) as the most common locations for alcohol use, followed by at an open area like a park (12.2%).
This highest percentage of students who have used alcohol in their lifetime selected the following sources of alcohol: from home with their parent’s permission (20.7%), from home without their parent’s permission (18.0%), and from someone they know age 21 or older (17.8%).
Why does this matter? One of the most important things a parent can do to reduce their teens drinking is to restrict their access to alcohol. One study indicated that teens' belief that alcohol was easily available at home was the single factor that predicted an increase in youth alcohol use and related problems two years later.
One of the most important things a parent can do to reduce their teens drinking is to restrict their access to alcohol.
Why do parents supply their kids with alcohol and let them drink at home? Many parents falsely believe by providing their children with alcohol and letting them drink at home they can teach them to drink responsibly or prevent some of the negative consequences associated with underage drinking. However, studies show that youth who are supplied alcohol by their parents had higher odds of binge drinking, alcohol related harm, and symptoms of alcohol use disorder than youth who had no supply of alcohol. In fact, studies show there is no protective benefits from parental supply of alcohol.
This reality is reflected in the data we collect from students here in Cortland County. In terms of access, about 30% of students that have used alcohol in their lifetime think it is hard to access alcohol, while 71% of non alcohol users think it is hard to access alcohol.
What should parents do? Parents can impose consequences such as: taking away privileges, adding chores, taking away cell phones etc. when they find out their children are drinking. The impact of perceived availability of alcohol can be mitigated by strict parental rules regarding alcohol use at home. However, of students who report drinking, countywide, 38% of students report not getting caught, with 24.7% reporting no consequences, 23.5% reporting major consequences and 13.8% reporting minor consequences after being caught drinking. In addition, a higher percentage of students who have not used alcohol in their lifetime think they would be caught by their parents (86%) versus 46% of students that have used alcohol in their lifetime. This trend is similar for binge drinking, with 61% of non-binge drinkers reporting they would be caught by their parents if they drank versus 22% of binge drinkers. This data reinforces the idea teens are less likely to use alcohol or other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and enforcing fair and consistent consequences.