Study links zero tolerance alcohol stance to binge drink reductions

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcohol Drinking culture Alcoholism

Parent’s adopting a zero tolerance policy on supplying alcohol to teenagers and children may cut the likelihood of college-age binge drinking later in life compared to more European attitudes on supervised access at restaurants or during family dinners, says new research.

According to findings detailed at this year’s meeting of the Society for Prevention Research by Caitlin Abar, suggestions that barring young people from alcohol only serves to encourage dangerous drinking at a later age are inaccurate.

Abar, from the Prevention Research and Methodology Center at Pennsylvania State University, says that, in a survey of 300 US college students, respondents who were never allowed by their parents to drink were ‘significantly’ less inclined to binge on alcohol, though further research is needed.

Policy concerns

Alcohol policy has become a major issue both in Europe and across the US as manufacturers continue to partially self regulate their advertising and distribution to encourage moderate or ‘responsible’ consumption of their products. However, debate continues to rage over the success of current industry practices, particularly amidst calls from some organisations for more restrictive governmental crackdowns through taxing or sale restriction.

In presenting her findings, Abar says that the survey indicates that the greater number of drinks set as a limit by a parent or guardian was linked to higher alcohol intake in students.

“Whether the parents themselves drank, on the other hand, had little effect on predicting their children's behaviours,”​ adds Abar, who claims that further study is required to support the survey.

Limitations highlighted by Abar herself were that students who drank specifically with their parents were not separated from under age drinkers allowed to consume alcohol without guardians present, either in or out of their house.

Representative findings

In reviewing the findings, Alexander Wagenaar, a social epidemiologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, suggests that the college students surveyed in the testing were also not necessarily representative of US attitudes to driking as a whole.

Despite being based almost entirely of white students living on campus, Wagenaar, who claims to have studied effects of raising drinking ages for almost thirty years, says that the data corresponds with similar trends linked to low-income African-American and Hispanic students.

“A 2007 study of 1,388 children by Kelli Komro of the University of Florida showed that schoolchildren who were permitted alcohol in the home by their parents in sixth grade were up to three times more likely to get drunk and almost twice as likely to drink heavily (five or more drinks) at ages 12-14,”​ states the researcher

Industry control

Alcohol policy group Eurocare says it concurs with the findings, suggesting there is no or little evidence to link so called ‘schooling’ by parents over how to moderate alcohol at a young age to being effective in curbing irresponsible drinking.

Mariann Skar, Eurocare’s general secretary, told that although parents’ surveillance of alcohol consumption among minors was important in controlling underage alcohol abuse, industry control measures such as publicity and setting age limits were seen as the most effective form of prevention.

“There are evidence-based measures linked to reduced drinking in young people, [such as] price, availability, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and also providing information,”​ she states. “There is no proof that “drinking schools” at home reduce problematic consumption patterns.”

From a health level, Eurocare says that it does not encourage drinking among young people at all, due to potential lack of certain enzymes in bodies of consumers under 21 it claims are needed to metabolite alcohol.

Source: American Institute of Physics​Published online, June 2009“Relaxed Attitudes Toward Alcohol And Youth May Increase Risk Of Binge Drinking In College."

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