Parental Rules Still Matter

Brad M. Griffin | Jun 17, 2010

In case you were wondering, science still agrees that drinking alcohol is bad for teenagers. Specifically, teen brain cells (still growing, especially in the areas of judgment and critical thinking) can be damaged by alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking.

But it may seem as though parents influence has waned in the debate over how teens make drinking decisions. According to research at Penn State, this is a false perception. This NPR report by Michelle Trudeau highlights that and other research that basically agree: parental rules matter.

When she tracked parents rules in high school about drinking across the leap to college, Penn State researcher Caitlin Abar found, Parents who disapproved completely of underage alcohol use tended to have students who engaged in less drinking, less binge drinking, once in college. The opposite was also true: parent permissiveness about teen drinking in high school is a significant risk factor for later binge drinking.

The rules matter. Parents who didnt let their kids drink at all in high school had the most protective effect, even in college.

Im not surprised that parental influence matters, but I admit I was a bit surprised that holding no-tolerance rules in high school led to less drinking in college. Researchers attribute this to internalization (the rule becomes part of who I amits not just my parents rule but my choice about how I live). But plenty of us know kids who drink in the face of rules, or who strictly avoid alcohol in high school and then go for it in college. This article by Krista Kubiak from our College Transition research team gets at some of those internalization dynamics. But what do you think? In the midst of helping parents become more understanding of teen development and social dynamics, do we sometimes insinuate that they shouldnt actually set clear boundaries and stick to them? Because if we are, research would prove us wrong.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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