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Parents key in alcohol intake of youngsters

By Lucy Christie

Published 11/02/2016

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

A study of adolescents' drinking habits has found the heaviest consumers of alcohol are 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 Queen's University Belfast and Glasgow University analysed data from 4,937 young people.

The study suggested that the determining factor in alcohol use was not the quality of the relationship between parent and child, but the level of control 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 mental wellbeing, when it comes to health behaviours like alcohol use, parental rules may have more of an influence over factors outside the home."

Dr McCann said all families needed to be more aware of alcohol's long-term impact.

He added: "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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