Archive for April, 2011

Adult-supervised drinking in young teens can backfire

Allowing adolescents to drink alcohol under adult supervision does not appear to teach responsible drinking as teens get older. In fact, such a “harm-minimization” approach may actually lead to more drinking and alcohol-related consequences, according to a new study in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

“Kids need parents to be parents and not drinking buddies,” according to the study’s lead researcher, Barbara J. McMorris, Ph.D., of the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. Allowing adolescents to drink with adults present but not when unsupervised may send mixed signals. “Adults need to be clear about what messages they are sending.”

Drinking Responsibly?

In general, parents tend to take one of two approaches toward teen drinking. Some allow their adolescent children to consume alcohol in small amounts on occasion if an adult is present. The thinking is that teens will learn to drink responsibly if introduced to alcohol slowly in a controlled environment. This has been the predominant approach in many countries, including Australia.

A second approach is one of “zero tolerance” for youth drinking, meaning that teens should not be allowed to drink alcohol under any circumstances. This less permissive position is predominant in the United States, with local laws and national policies often advocating total abstinence for adolescents.

Alcohol-Related Consequences

To test how these different approaches are related to teen drinking, McMorris and colleagues from the Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, Australia, and the Social Development Research Group in Seattle surveyed more than 1,900 seventh graders. About half were from Victoria, Australia; the rest were from Washington State. From seventh to ninth grade, investigators asked the youths about such factors as alcohol use, problems they had as a result of alcohol consumption, and how often had they consumed alcohol with an adult present.

By eighth grade, about 67% of Victorian youths had consumed alcohol with an adult present, as did 35% of those in Washington State, reflecting general cultural attitudes. In ninth grade, 36% of Australian teens compared with 21% of American teens had experienced alcohol-related consequences, such as not being able to stop drinking, getting into fights, or having blackouts. However, regardless of whether they were from Australia or the United States, youths who were allowed to drink with an adult present had increased levels of alcohol use and were more likely to have experienced harmful consequences by the ninth grade.

The researchers suggest that allowing adolescents to drink with adults present may act to encourage alcohol consumption. According to the authors, their results suggest that parents adopt a “no-use” policy for young adolescents. “Kids need black and white messages early on,” says McMorris. “Such messages will help reinforce limits as teens get older and opportunities to drink increase.”

Alcohol Available in the Home

In a related study in the May issue of JSAD, researchers from The Netherlands found that, among 500 12- to -15-year olds, the only parenting factor related to adolescent drinking was the amount of alcohol available in the home. In fact, the amount of alcohol parents themselves drank was not a factor in adolescent drinking. These results suggest that parents should only keep alcohol where it is inaccessible to teens. In addition, parents should “set strict rules regarding alcohol use, particularly when a total absence of alcoholic drinks at home is not feasible,” according to lead researcher Regina van den Eijnden, Ph.D., of Utrecht University in The Netherlands.

“Both studies show that parents matter,” McMorris concludes. “Despite the fact that peers and friends become important influences as adolescents get older, parents still have a big impact.”

April 30th, 2011  in Alcohol No Comments »

Parental Alcoholism Is Risk for Offspring’s Alcoholism

Researchers know that there is a strong link between parental alcohol use disorders and the risk for developing an alcohol use disorders among their offspring. This study looked at the risk of alcohol use disorders in the offspring of a large population-based sample of Danish parents. Findings confirmed that parental alcohol use disorders were associated with an increased risk of alcohol use disorders among the offspring.

“Few studies have used a broad population-based approach to examine associations between a parental history of alcohol use disorders and risk of an alcohol use disorders in offspring,” said Erik Lykke Mortensen, associate professor in medical psychology at the University of Copenhagen and corresponding author for the study. “Longitudinal population studies are both expensive and take a long time to complete. In some countries it may also be a problem to follow several generations through decades. But in Denmark we have personal identification numbers and national health registries.”

Population Based Study

Mortensen and his colleagues gathered data on 7,177 individuals (3,627 men, 3,550 women) born in Copenhagen between October 1959 and December 1961: information on alcohol use disorders was gathered from three Danish health registers, and information on other psychiatric disorders (OPDs) was gathered from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register. Offspring registration with an alcohol use disorders was analyzed in relation to parental registration with an alcohol use disorders and/or OPD. The gender of the offspring and parental social status were also noted.

Results showed that parental alcohol use disorders were associated with an increased risk of alcohol use disorders among the offspring, independent of other significant predictors such as gender, parental social status, and parental psychiatric hospitalization with other diagnoses.

“Furthermore, this association appeared to be stronger among female than male offspring, which suggests that inherited factors related to alcohol use disorders are at least as important among daughters as among sons,” said Mortensen. “This finding is important because some early studies suggested that a genetic load played a stronger role in males than in females.”

Increased Risk for Alcoholism

One of the important aspects of this study, added Mortensen, is that contrary to a number of previous adoption and twin studies – often based on relatively small and selected samples – these findings represent risk estimates from a population-based study.

“The key message for the general public is that there is an increased risk associated with parental alcoholism,” said Mortensen, “but obviously many other factors determine whether an individual develops an alcohol use disorder.”

Results will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

April 18th, 2011  in Alcoholism No Comments »