Is Your Teen Drinking? Set Rules!

Alcohol impulses reduced amongst adolescents with strict rules from parents

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(RxWiki News) Teenagers face the pressures of illegal drinking whether parents talk to them about it or not.  New research supports moms and dads who not only talk to their children about alcohol but also set rules.

Researchers discovered that when people keep getting drunk, even the simplest cue of alcohol, whether it be a beer bottle or liquor ad, could motivate them to drink again, unless they have a distinct reason not to.

"Setup guidelines with children about alcohol use."

A Ph.D. student in behavioral science at Radbound University Nijmegen, Sara Pieters, explains, "In most people, tendencies to avoid are automatically triggered by threatening stimuli such as a snake, and approach-tendencies can be triggered by appetitive stimuli such as water when thirsty.

“In heavy drinkers, stimuli that have been associated with alcohol use automatically trigger a tendency to approach."

Teenagers and young adults are still growing and maturing and typically show even less motivation to inhibit harmful behaviors, such as drinking. To help parents help their kids make the right decisions, researchers tested the role parents’ play in these approach tendencies.

In this study, Pieters and colleagues analyzed 238 children between 12 and 16 years old using cognitive assessments. The team gathered data on the rules for alcohol use in each home and tested the adolescents’ working memory capacity to determine their ability to reflect on their actions.

According to the study, “Results indicated that in young adolescents, approach tendencies were related to alcohol; however, we found that if parents set strict rules regarding their offspring's alcohol use, adolescents could inhibit these approach tendencies, particularly males.”

The opposite was unveiled true for permissive parents. In homes where there were little to no rules, the teens reported more desire to drink with more cues motivating them.

dailyRx asked contributing expert Shannon Kellogg, Psy.D., who works with children as a psychotherapist in a private practice, for her medical insight. "This study highlights the positive impact that structure and expectations can have on teens-- especially high risk teens,” expresses Dr. Kellogg.

“To have the most successful outcome, set clear rules and standards about drinking and partying with your teen, give explanations for your decision making process and rationale, and praise your teens positive attributes and accomplishments.”

Dr. Kellogg explains to dailyRx and its readers that although a parent may fear what could happen to their relationship if they turn up the strict, it could improve it if done correctly.

“My work with teens indicates that rules do not need to get in the way of having a good relationships with your teen,” says Kellogg. “While they may not say it, teenagers respect their parents who set clear rules for them. Your guidance is every bit as important to them as it was when they were younger."

The study came available online on February 15, 2012 will be published in the upcoming May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. No conflicts were reported during the course of the study.

Last Updated:
February 17, 2012