alcohol-useParents are a child’s greatest influence; the example that they set will have a great impact and may dictate some of the choices that their children make through the teenage years into young adulthood. While many parents have different opinions regarding their teenagers’ use of alcohol, new research suggests that parental practices and restrictions can make a difference, Medical News Today reports. A psychologist from the University at Buffalo has found that consistent and sustained parental attitudes about alcohol are very important.

The study conducted by Craig Colder, “A latent growth curve analysis of alcohol-use specific parenting and adolescent alcohol use,” found that many parents educate their children about the risks of alcohol use, but often letup on the discussions as they get older. Colder believes that parents should not underestimate the value of continued messaging regarding the substance.

“What our data are suggesting is that you can’t control all of your kids’ decisions, but you can help them to make good choices in situations where alcohol is available,” said Colder. “You want kids to think about and reflect upon the pros and cons of drinking based on your previous discussions.”

The research found a common pattern amongst many parents and children regarding alcohol:

  • Restrictive household rules discourage children from drinking.
  • Over time parents tend to shift their rules.
  • The attitudes about alcohol that parents project pivot.
  • Parents spend much less times discussing the dangers of alcohol.
  • Rules slacken and punishments for breaking the rules become less severe.

When parents stop sending a strong message about alcohol use, letting up on restrictions, teens will shift their beliefs as well and often times increase their alcohol use, according to the article. “We found a correlation between the shifting of those three aspects of parenting and increases in alcohol use,” said Colder. “The more rapid those declines, the more rapid the increase in the onset of alcohol use.”

“The research is correlational in nature, which has implications for how we can interpret causality. We’re not manipulating parenting in an experimental way. We’re looking at what’s happening in the naturalistic environment. It’s called a passive correlation design,” said Colder. “We’re just observing two things that happen over time and determining if they’re related to each other. And these two things are related.”

The research was published in Addictive Behaviors.