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Does drinking with parents help teens learn to be responsible?

Published on: December 30, 2013

The answer is no, according to a new study by University of Minnesota researchers.

Barbara McMorris, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, compared seventh graders from the U.S., which prohibits underage drinking, and Australia, where adult-supervised drinking for teens is allowed. By the ninth grade, 36% of the Australian teens had problems with binge drinking or other alcohol-related issues such as getting in fights and having blackouts, while only 21% of the American adolescents did. In fact, regardless of where they lived, youngsters who drank in front of adults were more likely to have drinking problems several years later than those who abstained.

According to McMorris, teens who drink with their parents aren't able to carry those messages of responsibility over to other situations. In unsupervised situations, teens are still likely to over-drink, because they don't know how to "cut themselves off after one drink when they are out with friends."

That's the revelation of McMorris's study, and it contradicts the intuitive sense that watching parents drink responsibly at dinner must send some message about moderation to teens about how to use alcohol. Instead, in the teen's mind, adult supervised drinking may be interpreted in almost the opposite way, as a license to imbibe. “As adults, we send a pretty clear message when we are permissive about the type of behavior we allow to happen right in front of us,” says McMorris. “We say that it's okay to drink.”

Via Time magazine.

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