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Does Parenting Style Effect Teen Drinking?

I just finished reading an interesting article titled, "Parenting Style, Religiosity, Peers, and Adolescent Heavy Drinking" in the July 2010 issue of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.  Two Ph.D.'s researched and studied parenting style, religion, and peers on teen drinking.  What they found is quite interesting if you have a teen child. 

First, they recognized the four established parenting types: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful.  Authoritative parents "tend to be high on support (warmth, nurturance) and control (monitoring, discipline)." Authoritative parents are demanding but also equally responsive and warm.  Authoritarian parents "tend to be high on control but low on support.  Their assertions and demands are not properly balanced with praise and genuine warmth."

Indulgent parents tend to be warm and supportive but provide relatively low levels of monitoring or direction.  Finally, neglectful parents are low in both direction and warmth. 

The researchers found that adolescents from authoritative homes were significantly less likely than adolescents from the other three types to have participated in heavy drinking or to have close friends who used alcohol.  As expected, teens with a parent or parents who tend to be more neglectful had the had the highest odds of heavy drinking.  Also, they found that religious teens were significantly less likely to drink or have peers who use alcohol.   

The researchers were careful to point out that the parenting style is defined by how the teen perceives their parents, not how the parents perceive themselves.  This is a very important distinction. 

Finally, the researchers concluded that teens with authoritative parents (highly demanding and responsive) tend to monitor their children closely and provide high levels of emotional support and warmth.  This parent is attuned to the emotional and mental needs of their child and foster a healthy relationship of trust and discipline.  This type of parent may help diminish the likelihood that adolescents will choose risky forms of self expression such as heavy drinking even when they have peers who use alcohol

In my professional practice, I've seen all four types of parenting styles and variations thereof.  I encourage parents of teens to establish appropriate rules and policies concerning drinking, monitor all aspects of their teen's life, and enforce the rules while maintaining an appropriate level of trust.  At the end of the day, there is only so much a parent can do with this difficult issue. 


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