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Parents who discuss drinking with their teens before they start college can influence their children’s drinking behavior once they are at school, a new study suggests.
A parental talk can reduce the chances that light drinkers will become heavier drinkers, and increase the odds that teens who already drink heavily will reduce their drinking or stop, Time.com reports.
Effective strategies can include discussing why some teens drink and others don’t, and the potential dangers of drinking too much, the article notes.
The study included 1,900 students and their parents, who were surveyed in the summer before the teens started college, and again in the fall of the teens’ freshman and sophomore years. The parents were divided into four groups. One group was given a handbook to guide discussions. The book provided tips on starting casual and nonjudgmental conversations, as well as information on the risks of underage drinking.
A second group used the handbook, as well as “booster” discussions. A third group did not talk about drinking with their children until they had already begun school, and a fourth group was not given any instructions on talking with their children about drinking.
Before the study began, 51 percent of students described themselves as nondrinkers, 30 percent said they drank heavily on some weekends, and 15 percent drank moderately on weekends. An additional 5 percent said they were frequent, heavy drinkers. After 15 months of college, only 25 percent were nondrinkers and 29 percent were heavy drinkers.
Students whose parents talked to them about drinking before they left for school were 20 times more likely to have healthier drinking patterns, including not drinking at all, than they were to stay heavy drinkers 15 months later.
The researchers found parental talks were effective only if they took place before students left for college.
The study appears in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs.