Parental Supervision and Adolescent Drinking

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A new study published by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has shown that inadequate parental supervision during adolescence can lead to behavioral problems, including problem drinking in girls. The study shows that girls who get their period earlier have the highest rates of alcohol abuse, increasing the chances about 234%.

It is well known that adolescents are in that stage where they are curious about everything. That includes drugs and alcohol. That is why it is so important for them to have strong parental role models in their life. It is also explains why this new study got the results it did.

The Risk of Alcohol Abuse and Ages of First Period

The risk of alcohol abuse rises in young girls due to inadequate parent supervision who hit puberty early. Brett Laursen, Ph.D., professor and graduate studies coordinator in FAU’s Department of Psychology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and Daniel J Dickson, lead author and a Ph.D student at FAU, and their colleagues at Obrebro University followed nearly 1,000 girls aged 13-17. The girls were put in three categories, one group who got their period before the age of 12, a group who got their period at the average age range 12 or 13, and those who got their period late at the age of 14 or older.

The study over time examined the associations between parental presence and adolescent alcohol abuse during this developmental period when trying alcohol for the first time becomes more and more normal. The researchers were able to determine that girls who get their period early are at risk when coupled with lack of parental supervision.

Every year the girls completed a questionnaire and a measure that described the frequency of their alcohol intoxication. Results of the study revealed that alcohol consumption increased in all of the girls as they got older.

For “on time” girls and “late” girls regardless of parental supervision, there was really no impact on rates of alcohol abuse. However, for the early girls, parental supervision made a big difference. For early maturing girls whose parents kept an eye on them, there was an 84% increase in alcohol abuse from the seventh to the tenth grade. Those granted average levels of freedom from parental supervision had about a 160% increase in alcohol abuse and those given total freedom had the highest rates of alcohol abuse, with intoxication frequency increasing an average of 234%.

Also, the more the girls drank at the beginning of adolescence the more freedom they were given by parents over the course of their adolescence. Parents tended to withdraw supervision of the girls with the most severe drinking problems.

“Early maturing girls are quite distinct from their age mates and often seek the company of older peers, so as not to stand out physically,” said Laursen. “Affiliation with older peers creates vulnerability, because influence is not equally distributed between friends, and younger partners tend to adopt the drinking habits of older partners. Another problem is that the groups of older peers who are most likely to welcome early maturing girls into their midst tend to receive little adult supervision and, perhaps not surprisingly, are often involved in deviant activities.”

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