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Biggest adolescent drinkers linked to lowest levels of parental control

Published 10/02/2016

The biggest drinkers among the 11 to 17-year-olds were also the most secretive about their use of alcohol
The biggest drinkers among the 11 to 17-year-olds were also the most secretive about their use of alcohol

A study of adolescents' drinking habits has found the heaviest consumers of alcohol were teenagers under the lowest levels of parental control.

The biggest drinkers among the 11 to 17-year-olds were also the most secretive about their use of alcohol.

Researchers from Glasgow University and Queen's University Belfast analysed data from 4,937 young people between 2000 and 2011.

The study suggests that the determining factor in alcohol use is not the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control exercised by parents.

Dr Mark McCann, from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at Glasgow University, said: "Our results suggest the role of parents in determining alcohol behaviour is consistently important.

"We are hypothesising that while emotional support and closeness are important for ensuring mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home such as peer influences and social media."

Dr McCann said all families need to be more aware of alcohol's long-term influence on physical and mental health.

He said: "Given that adolescence is often a critical period for the beginning of alcohol use, and that alcohol harms are not confined to children from so-called 'problem' families, support for adolescent parenting - rather than alcohol awareness for parents - may be a more beneficial target for public policy aimed at young people's health behaviour."

The paper, titled Assessing elements of a family approach to reduce adolescent drinking frequency, is published in the journal Addiction.

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