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An exploratory study of the relationship between parental attitudes and behaviour and young people’s consumption of alcohol

A recent report described the key findings from a secondary analysis of data from a Communities That Care survey. The survey completed by children aged 11 to 16 years in one south Wales local authority area in 2008. The analysis examined the importance of family closeness and conflict, parental monitoring and attitudes and family history of substance misuse, relative to young people’s drinking behaviour. The project was commissioned by the local Children and Young People Strategy Unit with the intention of informing practice and policy making in the field of alcohol misuse prevention.
The survey included 6,628 pupils attending state maintained secondary schools in one urban district of Wales. Factor analysis was used to reduce family functioning and parental attitude items within the questionnaire to a smaller number of variables for analyses. Analyses then focus upon associations of these variables, as well as two items relating to family history of substance use, with a number of markers of children’s own self-reported alcohol consumption behaviours.
The results showed that higher levels of parental monitoring were perceived by children who also perceived close relationships within their family. After controlling for age, gender and age of first drinking, these higher levels of parental monitoring were consistently related to lower levels of alcohol consumption. Perceived family closeness was correlated with drinking behaviours, though associations were typically not independent of parental monitoring. Perceived parental attitudes towards alcohol and petty crime and towards substance abuse emerged as significant correlates of drinking behaviours, with more liberal perceived attitudes predicting higher levels of drinking, as did having brothers or sisters who drank frequently before the age of 18, or a family member with a history of serious substance problems.
Results from this analysis support the view that the quality of family life is associated with adolescent drinking behaviour. There were strong links between parental monitoring and rule setting, and young people’s drinking behaviour. However, parental monitoring and rule setting around alcohol were strongly associated with family closeness and appeared to form part of a parental style of more general regulation of children’s behaviour. The role played by formal rule-setting and monitoring by parents in close families seems likely to be only one element within an array of family interactions influencing children’s alcohol use as well as other aspects of their behaviour.
The authors conclude suggest hat family closeness, and more specifically the quality of interactions in close families, may be at least as influential as active parental supervision in determining children’s drinking behaviour.
For full details of the report, visit
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