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Adolescent alcohol consumption: parents with greater influence than expected
Although some studies have already indicated that parental alcohol consumption has a significant influence on the drinking behavior of adolescents, many parents neglect their role models here. Parents have more control over adolescent alcohol consumption decisions than they are aware of, Australian researchers from the University of Adelaide report on their recent study results.
In their study, the scientists analyzed the drinking behavior of Australian adolescents and observed a considerable influence of parents on adolescent alcohol consumption. "Parental behavior and attitudes towards alcohol make a significant difference and can prevent children from drinking at an early age," said behaviorist Jacqueline Bowden from the University of Adelaide.
Young people asked about their drinking habits
Scientists asked more than 2,800 students from South Australia aged 12 to 17 about their alcohol consumption. "The results of the study provide an overview of the prevalence of alcohol consumption among students and the factors that have the greatest impact on drinking behavior," said the University of Adelaide. Harmful alcohol consumption remains a serious problem in Australia, and drinking patterns are often put into adolescence for the first time, Jacqueline Bowden emphasizes.
Understand the drinking behavior of adolescents better
According to the expert, "alcohol is one of the top 5 causes of death in young people and a leading cause of cancer in our society." Here it is important to better understand the drinking behavior among young people in order to derive effective prevention strategies. Regarding the drinking habits of Australian teenagers, the researchers found that most adolescents under the age of 16 had already tried alcohol. A third of the students reported occasional alcohol consumption and once young people became regular drinkers, the most important predictor of drinking was the perceived availability of alcohol, the scientists write.
Many people are not aware of the connection with cancer
Only 28 percent of the respondents were aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and those who knew this link were less likely to drink alcohol. Furthermore, when friends of respondents smoked or drank alcohol, their likelihood of alcohol consumption also increased. And financially well-off adolescents generally showed an increased likelihood of alcohol consumption.
Parents' disapproval of alcohol with far-reaching effects
Across all ages, adolescents were less likely to drink alcohol when their parents disapproved of underage alcohol consumption. "One of the most important messages from our study is that parents have more influence on young people's decisions about alcohol than they probably suspect," said Jacqueline Bowden.
"The latest findings underline the need to educate young people about the consequences of drinking alcohol" and the importance of parents' responsible drinking behavior, Lincoln Size of Cancer Council SA said in a statement from the University of Adelaide. Here the message has to get through that the supposedly harmless fun can actually have lifelong consequences.
Do not give alcohol to young people at home either
Behavioral researcher Jaqcueline Bowden explains that the issue of passing on alcohol to adolescents also needs to be addressed. Because many parents would believe that providing their children with alcohol in the safe environment of their home teaches them to use alcohol responsibly. However, the current findings indicate that this increases consumption and it is therefore in no way recommended. Likewise, the impression that alcohol is readily available means that young people drink more regularly.
Availability critical in society
The question of the availability - including price and marketing - of alcohol in society remains a major challenge, according to the researchers. Because in Australia alcohol is now more affordable than in the past 30 years and the number of sales outlets has increased significantly in the past 15 years. "Include advertising and sports sponsorship and we have a very strong message that alcohol is the norm," Bowden criticizes.
Important advice for parents
The latest findings show that parents are required “to help their children develop a healthier relationship with alcohol early on. Parents can set limits and create clear expectations, ”explains Jacqueline Bowden. According to the expert, parents should:
- Discuss alcohol consumption with their children and make it clear that not everyone drinks,
- find out about upcoming leisure activities such as a party and make their expectations of the behavior of young people clear,
- rethink your own alcohol consumption before the eyes of the children, as most alcohol is consumed by adults at home,
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- organize non-alcoholic events,
- and don't buy alcohol for teenagers or make it available at parties.
People often forget that alcohol is the most used recreational drug and how important it is "that parents set the right example," Bowden said.
Link between cancer and alcohol consumption
The researchers also expressly point out the cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption. It is "clear that alcohol consumption is a cause of cancer" and "every degree of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing alcohol-related cancer," said Lincoln Size. "We know that alcohol can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, intestines in men and breasts in women," Size continues. In addition, alcohol is considered a possible cause of liver cancer and there is evidence that alcohol increases the risk of colorectal cancer in women. A better awareness of the risk of cancer could also change adolescents' attitudes towards alcohol, the researchers explain. (fp)