Parents as role models
Parents play a significant and powerful role in shaping their child’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol, through their role-modelling of alcohol-related behaviours.10,13
Watching adults drink frequently and enjoy alcohol is linked to the development of a young person’s positive expectations of their own use of alcohol.13
But this knowledge can cut both ways – observing adults have fun without alcohol, demonstrate they can refuse a drink, and not have alcohol as the central focus of all social gatherings can positively shape a young person’s understanding of the role alcohol may, or may not, play in their life.
Parental disapproval of their children drinking, and young people believing that underage drinking is considered unacceptable, can reduce the likelihood that adolescents will drink.3,14 Setting clear boundaries about the unacceptability of alcohol, and not giving alcohol to young people, can help to communicate this disapproval.
Parents supplying alcohol
Parents are still the most likely group to have given alcohol to 12–17-year-old’s in Australia.5 This suggests that many parents are not yet aware of the negative impact such supply can have on their children.15 There may also be a lack of awareness about the damage caused to the brain by alcohol consumption during adolescence, and that the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends not drinking as the safest option for those under 18-years.16
There is now an opportunity to leverage the decreasing rates of adolescent alcohol consumption, and a growing body of knowledge around what works in prevention, to take positive, evidence-based action to empower parents and communities to further reduce the harms of alcohol to young people in Australia.
There is strong evidence that empowering parents with knowledge and understanding about why their children shouldn’t drink during adolescence, and the actions they can take, will reduce the likelihood their child will drink and drink in harmful ways.10,11
Mass media campaigns are another strategy to educate Australians about adolescent alcohol consumption. Awareness-raising campaigns can educate the public that not drinking when under 18 is the safest option, and inform parents about the power of role-modelling alcohol behaviour to their children.17
Programs that engage with parents may be a good strategy to combine with a mass media campaign. Programs could reinforce knowledge about the harms of alcohol to young people, while also fostering communication between parents. Creating a parental culture that recognises the harms of adolescent drinking can help to create a community-level culture, which disapproves of youth drinking. The message that adolescent drinking is unacceptable can be more effective when it is clearly and consistently repeated to young people both inside and outside of their home.
When adolescents are developing problematic drinking behaviours, parents can play a key role in supporting them to seek help, talking to their local doctor or other specialist services.
- L. P. Spear, “Effects of adolescent alcohol consumption on the brain and behaviour,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol. 19, pp. 197–214, 2018.
- B. J. Casey, R. M. Jones and T. A. Hare, “The Adolescent Brain,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, pp. 111–126, 2008.
- C. R. Colder, K. Shyhalla and S. E. Frndak, “Early alcohol use with parental permission: Psychosocial characteristics and drinking in late adolescence,” Addictive Behaviours, vol. 76, pp. 82–87, 2018.
- J. McCambridge, J. McAlaney and R. Rowe, “Adult Consequences of Late Adolescent Alcohol Consumption: A Systematic Review of,” PLoS Medicine, vol. 8, no. 2, 2011.
- V. White and T. Williams, “Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2014,” Cancer Council Victoria, 2016.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016,” AIHW, 2017.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Impact of alcohol and illicit drug use on the burden of disease and injury in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011,” Australian Government, Canberra, 2018.
- AIHW, “Deaths in Australia,” Australian Government, Online, 2018.
- Lam, T et al., “Young Australians’ Alcohol Reporting System (YAARS): National Report 2016/17,” National Drug Research Institute, Perth, 2017.
- S. M. Ryan , A. F. Jorm and D. I. Lubman, “Parenting factors associated with reduced adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 44, no. 9, pp. 774–783, 2010.
- J. W. Toumbourou, B. Rowland, M. Ghayour-Minaie, S. Sherker, G. C. Patton and J. W. Williams, “Student survey trends in reported alcohol use and influencing factors in Australia,” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, no. S1, pp. 58–66, 2018.
- R. K. Hodder, E. Campbell, C. Gilligan, H. Lee, C. Lecathelinais, S. Green, M. MacDonald and J. Wiggers, “Association between Australian adolescent alcohol use and alcohol use risk and protective factors in 2011 and 2014,” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, no. S1, pp. 22–33, 2017.
- K. Smit, C. Voogt, M. Hiemstra, M. Kleinjan, R. Otten and E. Kuntsche, “Development of alcohol expectancies and early alcohol use in children and adolescents: A systematic review,” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 60, pp. 136–146, 2018.
- P. Larm , M. Livingston, J. Svensson, H. Leifman and J. Raninen, “The increased trend of non-drinking in adolescence: The role of parental monitoring and attitudes toward offspring drinking,” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, no. S1, pp. S34–S41, 2018.
- M. I. Jongenelis, R. Johnston and J. Stafford, “Factors Associated with Parents’ Belief in the Appropriateness of Providing Alcohol to their Child,” Substance Use and Misuse, vol. 53, no. 14, 2018.
- National Health and Medical Research Council, “Australian guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking alcohol,” NHMRC, Canberra, 2009.
- R. S. Johnston, J. Stafford, M. I. Jongenelis, T. Shaw, H. Samsa, E. Costello and G. Kirby, “Evaluation of a public education campaign to support parents to reduce adolescent alcohol use,” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 588–598, 2018.
- B. Rowland, J. W. Toumbourou, L. Satyen, G. Tooley,
M. Livingston, J. Hall and J. Williams, “Associations between alcohol outlet densities and adolescent alcohol consumption: A study in Australian students,” Addictive Behaviours, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 282-288, 2014.
- C. Werch and D. Owen, “Iatrogenic Effects of Alcohol and Drug Prevention Programs,”
Journal of Studies on Alcohol, pp. 581–590, 2002.
- H. Cahill, “Devising classroom drug education programs,” in Drug Education in Schools: Searching for the SIlver Bullet, East Hawthorn, IP Communications, 2006, pp. 147–165.
- C. Davis, C. Francis, C. Mason and J. Phillips, “A Best Practice Guide to Policy, Prevention and Planning for Alcohol and Other Drugs in Schools,” Dovetail, Brisbane, 2018.
- K. J. Pegg, A. W. O’Donnell, G. Lala and B. L. Barber, “The Role of Online Social Identity in the Relationship Between Alcohol-Related Content on Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Alcohol Use,” Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018.
- J. C. Scott, S. T. Slomiak, J. D. Jones, A. F. Rosen, T. M. Moore and R. C. Gur, “Association of Cannabis With Cognitive Functioning in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” JAMA Psychiatry, vol. 75, no. 6, pp. 585–595, 2018.
- L. Cooper, “Motivations for Alcohol Use Among Adolescents: Development and Validation of a Four-Factor Model,” Psychological Assessment, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 117–128, 1994.
- N. Comeau, S. H. Stewart and P. Loba, “The relations of trait anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, and sensation seeking to adolescents’ motivations for alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use,” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 26, pp. 803–825, 2001.
- M. Pompili, G. Serafini, M. Innamorati, G. Dominici, S. Ferracuti, G. D. Kotzalidis, G. Serra, P. Girardi, L. Janiri, R. Tatarelli, L. Sher and D. Lester, “Suicidal Behaviour and Alcohol Abuse,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 1392–1431, 2010.