Parents Should Address Alcohol Use Before Teens Enter College

Talking to your teenage children about abstaining from alcohol before they head off to college can significantly influence them to imbibe less or to not drink at all, a new study has found.

The strategy is important because more than 90 percent of teens try alcohol outside the home before they graduate from high school, according to a Penn State professor who developed a parent handbook to help curb teenage drinking.

“It is well known that fewer problems develop for every year that heavy drinking is delayed,” said Robert Turrisi. “Our research over the past decade shows that parents can play a powerful role in minimizing their teens’ drinking during college when they talk to their teens about alcohol before they enter college.”

The study included 1,900 incoming freshman to a large, public northeastern U.S. university. Each was classified into one of four groups: nondrinkers, weekend light drinkers, weekend heavy drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Parents of the freshman were asked to read a handbook about alcohol use and to discuss drinking with their teens at one of three times: before college, before and during the fall semester of college and during the fall semester of college.

“Our results show that if parents follow the recommendations suggested in the handbook and talk to their teens before they enter college, their teens are more likely to remain in the non-drinking or light-drinking groups or to transition out of a heavy-drinking group if they were already heavy drinkers,” Turrisi said.

Waiting to talk to teens about drinking during the fall semester, after they have already entered college, did not always affect their drinking behaviors. In some cases, it made no difference at all.

Source: Penn State news release

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