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Parental Influence on Consumption and Abuse of Alcohol

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Douglas Scott Burton

Adolescence is the years from which puberty begins in childhood to when puberty ceases in adulthood. Generally, it is divided into three stages: early adolescence which overall lasts between ages 11 to 14, middle adolescence that generally spans ages 15 to 17, and late adolescence which stretches the ages to 18 to 21 years of age. Puberty creates growth to see things as either right or wrong. Adolescents are rarely able to see beyond the present situation, which can explain why younger teenagers are often unable to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. Parents have a critical role in shaping the future of their children. Does being an American adolescent in an American family where your parents allow casual consumption of alcohol teach the child responsible drinking habits when the child becomes of legal drinking age (21)? On the other hand, does it instill a sense of nonchalant drinking habits? I believe that having parents that causally and responsibly consume alcohol, teaches the child/children, how to respect alcohol and how not to abuse it later in life.

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In the United States of America, we have a largely diverse population and culture. Therefore, when looking at adolescent alcohol use and abuse we need to understand the different people that live in this country. According to a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 10.1 million underage youth drink alcohol each year in the United States. Early alcohol and drug use increases the possibility for many social, emotional, and behavioral problems including violence, truancy, and depression. (National Institute of Health, n.d.) (Barry, Chaney, & Chaney, 2011; Ellickson, Tucker, & Klein, 2001; Stueve & O’Donnell, 2005). In ethnic minority families such as African Americans, adolescent drug and substance problems are a significant public concern. (NIH, n.d.). African Americans comprise only 14% of the population in the United States, yet they are 26% of all juvenile arrests, 44% of detained youth, and 58% of the youth sent to state prison (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 2012). Early substance use has strongly been associated with father-only households. Further, children from dual-parent families are said to use significantly less marijuana than those from mother-only families (Hemovich & Crano, 2009).

According to Janet Chrzan in Alcohol: Social Drinking in Culture Context, the culture of the United States, and particularly that of the South and of the Midwest, carries many traces of Prohibition tendencies to this day. “The United States has the highest rate of self-reported total abstinence, out of any other non-Muslim alcohol-drinking country, with roughly one-third of the population avoiding alcohol (in contrast, only about 9% of Swedes and 11% of Norwegian abstain). In the United States, abstention is highest in working-class women and lowest among upper-class white men.”

In a paper published in the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health there are two policies regarding alcohol consumption by minors. “Harm-minimisation policies suggest that alcohol use is a part of normal adolescent development and that parents should supervise their children’s use to encourage responsible drinking.” “Zero-tolerance policies suggest that all underage alcohol use should be discouraged.” In this study, they took a sample of 1,945 seventh-grade students from both Washington State, United States and Victoria, Australia. The study showed that adolescent alcohol use is related to a variety of problem behaviours including harmful alcohol use, drinking and driving, risky sex, and violence (World Health Organization, 2008). However, longitudinal studies demonstrate that good family management practices, including clear rules prohibiting alcohol use, monitoring of children’s behaviour, and consistent consequences for violating rules, are related to decreases in teen alcohol use (Barnes et al. 2000, Brook et al., 1986; Chilcoat and Anthony, 1996; Kosterman et al., 2000; Nash et al., 2005; Sargent and Dalton, 2001). Likewise, parental patterns of alcohol use and involvement of their children in their use have been shown to be risk factors for adolescent alcohol and other drug use (Chassin et al., 2003, Hawkins et al., 1992; Johnson and Leff, 1999; Lei et al., 2002a). Despite this, some parents still provide alcohol to their children, as teens report being at parties at which underage drinking was occurring in the presence of parents (American Medical Association, 2006). In Australia, it was noted that 30%-50% of adolescent drinkers obtain alcohol from their parents. Australian parents are supported by a national harm-minimisation policy.

In 2001, the Australian Government promoted “Alcohol Guidelines” for youth younger than the adult legal age for alcohol purchase (age 18). It offered suggestions for being a responsible drinker in supervised settings and for becoming a responsible adult drinker through supervised introduction to alcohol (Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, 2001). “Harm-minimisation” advocates concede that parental rules and attitudes favoring “responsible drinking may be associated with a greater likelihood of underage alcohol use but also argue that parental supervised alcohol use may reduce the likelihood of adolescent drinkers progressing to problematic alcohol use during adolescence and early adulthood.

In Washington, the relationship between favorable parental attitudes toward alcohol use and ninth-grade alcohol-related harms was mediated by opportunities to drink in an adult-supervised setting in a way that increased risk. For Victorian youth, there was no protective mediating effect of supervised use. Instead, similar to Washington students, they found a significant mediating process that increased the risk for subsequent alcohol use and harm among students in Victoria. In the summary, the study found that harm-minimisation proponents contend that youth drinking in adult-supervised settings is protective against future harmful use. The study found adult-supervised drinking in both states actually resulted in higher levels of harmful alcohol use.

According to the research survey completed, my hypothesis does not stand. Having parents that allow American adolescents to consume alcohol will create a sense that it is okay to consume alcohol, even though they are underage. It will possibly lead to an overconsumption and possible abuse of alcohol by adolescent Americans. As those adolescents grow up and move away to go to universities, alcohol will become more available possibly, leading to more abuse. Therefore, if you are a parent or are planning on becoming a parent, you should not allow your adolescent children to consume alcohol. It could lead to destructive behaviour. If you want to teach them responsible drinking actions, you should teach by example. Never become drunk in front of your children.

Works Cited

Rees, Carter, Adrienne Freng, and L. Thomas Winfree, Jr. “The Native American Adolescent: Social Network Structure and Perceptions of Alcohol Induced Social Problems.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 43.3 (2013): 405-25. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

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Small, Eusebius, Rie Suzuki, and Arati Maleku. “The Impact of Family and Parental Education on Adolescents’ Substance Use: A Study of U.S. High School Seniors.” Social Work in Public Health 29.6 (2014): 594-605. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Chrzan, Janet. “It’s Happy Hour! Modern American Drinking.” Alcohol: Social Drinking in Cultural Context. New York: Routledge, 2013. N. pag. Print.

White, Helene Raskin, and David L. Rabiner. “Historical and Developmental Patterns of Alcohol and Drug Use among College Students.” College Drinking and Drug Use. New York: Guilford, 2012. N. pag. Print.

McMorris, Barbara J., Richard F. Catalano, Min Jung Kim, John W. Toumbourou, and Sheryl A. Hemphill. “Influence of Family Factors and Supervised Alcohol Use on Adolescent Alcohol Use and Harms: Similarities Between Youth in Different Alcohol Policy Contexts.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Rutgers University, May 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2


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