June 25th, 2010
05:52 PM ET

Parenting style may affect teen drinking

Trying to prevent your teen from binge drinking? A new study suggests you might want to consider your parenting style.

"Parents who are what we call authoritative, which is to say they monitor kids closely and show a lot of warmth and support, they are less likely to have teens who participate in heavy drinking," explains sociologist and study author Stephen Bahr of Brigham Young University in Utah.

Bahr and his research team surveyed almost 5,000 young people ages 12-19 about their drinking behaviors and the level of emotional support, monitoring and direction from parents.  The parents were placed into four different parenting styles, based on the children's answers: authoritative – loving and very hands-on, authoritarian – strict, but not warm, indulgent – loving but less likely to discipline, and neglectful.

"Parents who were not too extreme, either in terms of being too quick to give in, letting their kids do whatever they want, or were not too mean or threatening with kids, those kids are going to do best," explains Nadine Kaslow, psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine.

Experts say parents don't have much influence over whether their children drink alcohol, but parenting style does affect whether adolescents binge drink – defined as five or more drinks in a row. The adolescents who indicated their parents were authoritative were less apt to binge drink than teens raised with any other parenting style.

The youth who drank less were also more likely to have close friends who were non-drinkers. But even if their friends did drink, teens raised by authoritative parents were still less likely to choose risky behaviors themselves.

"Even though peers are important, parents have a significant influence, can actually soften the influence of peers," explains Bahr.

Psychologist Nadine Kaslow says the study findings are important and she'd like to see them replicated in an observational study where researchers actually observe parents and teens.

Bahr hopes parents will develop new strategies to build kind, loving relationships with their teens and set clear, firm boundaries and limits. This foundation may help steer teens away from risky behavior such as binge drinking.

"Having a relationship with them [teens] so that they feel like they can talk to you and you support them, then they're more likely to listen to you. Maybe that's pretty common sense advice but I think too often parents don't do it," explains Bahr.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. KeithInVA

    So... a study about teen drinking and parenting styles based SOLELY on feedback from teenagers? What could possibly be more worthless than what teenagers have to say about parenting and drinking?

    June 25, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wowza

      That entire statement is exactly why parents and teens can't communicate. Let's hope you don't have teens. You may find that their views are *gasp* intelligent, insightful, and helpful.

      June 27, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      How do you know the original response is not from someone that is a teenager or someone in their 20's? Stop making stupid comments without having evidence to prove what you're talking about.

      June 28, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • chimpimp

      The study was to determine the parenting styles and the relationship of these parenting styles to the way teenagers viewed drinking. How did it fail to do that?

      My mother and her brother were raised by very authoritarian parents who were unable to express love. Both my mother and her brother were alcoholics. Their parents didn't drink at all. Yes parenting style has a lot to do with it. Parents who are unable to listen to their children will not have a good relationship with their children and the children will grow up rebellious. Respect is earned, not demanded.

      June 28, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
    • sofrito

      Dude, I weep for your kids.

      June 29, 2010 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
  2. Susie

    authoritative and authoritarian – they sound the same to me, but the definitions are quite different!

    June 25, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Chris Reichman

    Dr. Gupta, I'm Dr. Reichman I'm a neurosurgeon in Provo, UT and my father was the chief neurosurgeon at Loyola University for 25 years. I have a medical question so if this even gets to you I'd be reallly pleased if I could email you. Thank you very much

    June 26, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kafine

    I really do despise these obvious studies. Is is really that groundbreaking that parent who both monitor and love their children are superior to parents that are A) strict and cold B) saccharine pushovers C) don't care?

    June 27, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pamela

      I suppose that depends on who you ask. I think you'd be surprised at the parents who think never saying no to their child is the best way and the parents who think never saying I love you to their child is the best way.

      I have two completely different children that I raise in very different ways except for two things – I have clear boundaries and structure and I love and support them both absolutely. There's nothing more important than those two things.

      June 28, 2010 at 14:10 | Report abuse |
  5. L

    i agree. i was a drinker when i was pretty young, mother was strict but was harsher on me vs sister, so i didnt get any love yanno. im with my dad now, have been for the past few years. i mean i still drink every so often but not as bad at alllll. i feel less of a need to. its stressful when your parents who are sposed to teach you certain things, and qualities, cant even face them. my mothers parenting affected me alot. and if anyone seriously thinks that parenting techniques DONT make a difference on teens your seriously ignorant. just bc we're teenagers doesnt mean you dont make mistakes either!

    June 28, 2010 at 03:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ubo

    "Parents who are what we call authoritative, which is to say they monitor kids closely and show a lot of warmth and support, they are less likely to have teens who participate in heavy drinking,"

    They're also less likely to grow into interesting people who contribute to society.

    My parents showed me lots of love and warmth but they also didn't watch me that closely. I made my mistakes and learned from them, that's what people do. Of course I was also smart enough to not drink and drive and to use birth control, so I don't know if kids these days are screwing up so much because of parents doing it wrong or what.

    June 28, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pamela

      I disagree completely. I have strict boundaries with both of my kids, but let them follow their own path to their identity. You can have structure for things like drinking or more serious things while letting them create their own identity. That's the warmth and support part.

      June 28, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • Will

      to ubo, re: "They're also less likely to grow into interesting people who contribute to society" This is a ridiculous statement. If a parent is doing their job the right way, ie., loving, structured, rules, etc, then how can you say that? Later on in your next paragraph, you reveal your ignorance by saying "so I don't know if kids these days are screwing up so much because of parents doing it wrong or what." So obviously you don't know what you are talking about. If you don't know, don't comment!

      June 28, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse |
    • E

      "They're also less likely to grow into interesting people who contribute to society." – Ubo

      Ouch...as a child of authoritative parents (monitor kids closely and show a lot of warmth and support) who is now in my mid-twenties, it's pretty awful to read that someone thinks that I am not an interesting person who contributes to society... If parents balance the love and the monitoring, you're at least as likely to be "interesting" and "contribute" as anyone else. My friends have parents with similar parenting styles and we all are pursuing our dreams as doctors, teachers, nurses, educators and non-profit administrators – we volunteer too. Our parents are all civil servants or have other middle class jobs and we've worked our way through by learning from our parents' mistakes and advice or seeing other peoples' mistakes rather than making the worst our own. I don't seem to have trouble making friends so I must not be too uninteresting. I am happy with my life and am always striving to benefit society. I would suggest that you (Ubo) stop putting people in boxes – you're not contributing to society with a limited view of what people can become – you might be interesting though...best of luck to you.

      And to Lynfh, I'm a PK and I none of the Preacher's kids I've known in my life have been or are binge drinkers, and I certainly had a glass of wine with my parents at 21 and I like to have one every now and then. Just thought I'd try to kill another stereotype for the other annoyed PKs out there. How kids turn out is also based on the individual child's personality, inner drive, and how the parents adjust to that – this study is just focusing on a few variables.

      July 21, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
  7. Oleg

    All these studies forget that parenting styles are determined as much by needs of individual children as parent's beliefs. You will not make a docile, level headed kid from an intelligent but impulsive kid by applying more pressure. You will only make him/her completely pull away from you and lose the limited influence that you are able to exert by reasoning and personal example. There are some battles that are possible to win and are worth fighting. But for the most part each human being has his/her own destiny and parents are given privilege to observe or fine-tune but not completely reshape it.

    June 28, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Saul Davidman

    Earth-shattering! In other news: Earth ROUND, not flat, scientists say.

    June 28, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Saul Davidman

    All I'm asking, nay, all I'm begging you, is to please tell me our tax dollars did not fund a study to discover this.

    June 28, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sofrito

      Yes, who needs basic research when we have religion, unfounded opinions, and gut feelings to base our most important decisions on.

      June 29, 2010 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
  10. whatevaa

    Parents should enjoy time with their kids. I was raised outside of the US and I can say that American Parents don't know anything about their kids! They don't talk to them, don't care what their doing... This is why kids drink. They have no idea what their doing... If parents gave them guidance and just talk to them like normal human beings, the story would be very different.

    June 28, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lynfh

    Every wild and crazy binge drinker I ever knew was a 'preacher's kid' with very strict, but loving upbringing. And when they got to college they cut loose a bit more than the rest of us who might have snuck a few in high school. Doubtful they were having a glass of wine and nice conversation at dinner with their parents when they turned 21. (19 when I was that age). Habits are modeled and taught. Did the researcher touched on those factors?

    June 29, 2010 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. nomrom

    "Parents who are what we call authoritative, which is to say they monitor kids closely and show a lot of warmth and support, they are less likely to have teens who participate in heavy drinking," explains sociologist and study author Stephen Bahr of Brigham Young University in Utah.

    That's weird, I would've thought mormon kids like to git down

    June 30, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. TMNT

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks like he will kill you (he looks like a terrorist)

    July 1, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Professor Obvious

    I hope you enjoyed the extremely surprising and counter-intuitive nature of my research.

    In my next study, I will study the effects of alcohol on the perceptions of sexual attractiveness in others.

    Unfortunately, my forehead is now red-raw from slapping it so much in abject shock at normal mundane occurences in everyday life.

    July 4, 2010 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • E

      To Professor Obvious, Re: "In my next study, I will study the effects of alcohol on the perceptions of sexual attractiveness in others."

      A study in England beat you to it...or maybe this is yours, that was quick! Enjoy!

      Hot or not? Look again —'beer goggles' are real
      Strangers really do look sexier when you drink booze, science confirms
      http:// www. msnbc. msn. com/ id/ 26205250 (delete spaces)

      July 21, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
  15. Holly

    I did not have the perfect life, but I will not go into details. My mother & I are very close & I have been close with her since I was born. It's a rarity these days. But I am 21 years old and I do not have a problem with drinking. I drink maybe once a year? I just feel guilty drinking in front of parents; that & I have a 1 year old son. & I can't do it in front of him.
    I have been taught that if I'm going to drink, I do it at home; not out with friends in a car. I've watched people get killed around here because of drunk driving, including a close friend's cousin that was hit by a drunk driver. So that backed up following my mom's wisdom.

    July 6, 2010 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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