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when away from home, and enforcing evening curfews. It also includes engagement with children’s lives, including doing projects and activities with them, and the use of appropriate punishments for misbehavior and rewards for positive behavior. There is good evidence that such parenting is associated with a reduced risk of using all substances, including alcohol (see Chapter 4). A recent national longitudinal survey of parents and their 9- to 18-year-old children supports this claim. Children of parents who were relatively high on a supervision and monitoring scale were compared with children of parents who were low on the monitoring scale. Less monitored youth were more likely, subsequently, to progress to alcohol consumption in the next 12 to 18 months, and if they were already drinkers, were more likely to continue drinking.1


There is significant evidence that parents are unaware of the extent and riskiness of youth drinking. The national longitudinal survey mentioned above compared reports of alcohol use among youth aged 12 to 18 with their parents’ perception of their alcohol use. Both parents and their children were asked about whether or not the child had used alcohol, more than a few sips, in the previous 12 months. Overall, parents moderately underestimated what their children reported as use: for 12- to 13-year-olds, the parents thought that 7 percent had used alcohol, but 11 percent of their children said they did; for 14- to 15-year-olds, the comparable numbers were 21 percent and 33 percent; and for 16- to 18-year-olds, the numbers were 44 percent and 56 percent.

An even more telling way to look at these data is to turn them around and ask how often parents knew when their own child was drinking. Including all of the children from 12 to 18 years old, 44 percent of all the youth who had had drinks in the past year were described by their parents as nondrinkers. Moreover, 31 percent of the youth who said they had been drunk in the past year were said by their parent to be nondrinkers, and 27 percent of those who said they had had five or more drinks in the past month were said by their parents to be nondrinkers. While a majority of parents may know whether or not their children drink, there is a substantial fraction who do not, even when their children admit to recent heavy drinking (see also Sieving, 1997; Beck et al., 1995).

A 1998 study by Bogenschneider and colleagues found that less than one-third of parents (29 percent of mothers and 31 percent of fathers) were


Based on analysis by Robert Hornik of unpublished data collected by Westat for the National Institute on Drug Abuse for the evaluation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s national youth antidrug media campaign.

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