When it comes to discouraging drinking, parents can still have an effect… (Associated Press )
Going to college can be a rough transition, full of new faces and schedules and freedoms. And parties. Lots of parties. Lots of chances to drink. And that gives plenty of parents pause.
But a new study offers parents this encouraging news: Teenagers will still listen to you.
Parents can still have an effect on their college-bound children -- if they act while the kids are still at home, according to the paper, which will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. It was made available early to The Times.
The researchers looked at a parent-based intervention program outlined in a 22-page handbook parents receive from colleges. It includes an overview of college drinking and suggestions for helping students learn to resist peer pressure, and a discussion of why teenagers drink and how it affects them.
Peer pressure still counts, the researchers said. But parents can be effective in addressing drinking if they get involved before college -- more effective than if they wait until the student has started college, they wrote -- and have a “booster” conversation during the first semester. The booster conversation can help moderate the influence of peers, the researchers said.
A parent-based intervention, as these programs are called, “is a low-cost but effective tool that prevents escalation of drinking during this transition,” said Michael Cleveland of the Pennsylvania State University’s Prevention Research Center, lead author of the study. Parents and peers, he said, “continue to have influence even as young people transition from adolescence to young adulthood.”
The researchers looked at 1,900 incoming college students at a large Northeastern university who agreed to take part. They were divided into four groups: non-drinkers, weekend light drinkers, weekend heavy episodic drinkers and heavy drinkers. Parents’ influence was highest among students who were light to moderate drinkers and who reported high levels of peer approval of drinking.
“Our results demonstrate that parents who maintain effective communication with their teen and, through this communication, reinforce expectations regarding alcohol use can provide protection during this vulnerable transition, when most young people increase their drinking behaviors,” the researchers wrote.
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