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Influences in the Home




How can I best prepare my daughter for all that pressure to drink in college? We drink at home once in awhile, but just a glass of wine now and then or maybe my husband has a beer on a Saturday afternoon. I hope we have been good role models. 


Everywhere you look, either in the magazines or on television, it seems like there is an alcohol ad. And the movies make drunks look comical rather than like people who could be in real trouble. How do I counteract this constant barrage of misinformation about drinking? 




My parents had a party the other night. I saw three people leave who were really drunk. How can they tell me not to drink when it is clear they are clueless about booze?


I just graduated from college. Although I drank in college, I never really got into the party life. My younger brother is graduating from high school soon. My parents want me to provide him with some suggestions about avoiding drinking problems. What should I say?


My parents are divorced. My mother drinks a lot and my father drinks once in a while. They both have told me not to drink until I am twenty-one. I think I can be more responsible than either of them and I am only eighteen.



Parents have many responsibilities when it comes to raising children.  When children are young, parents must provide for all their needs and offer guidance in every facet of their lives. As children grow, so does their independence. They begin to spend more time with friends and are faced with many decisions they must make without the guiding hand of their parents. When a child graduates from high school and prepares to go off to college, a parent may feel as if they have done all they can do and now they must simply hope their child makes the right choices. Yet during high school and even the first post-high school years, parents still have many occasions to share information that will help their child succeed.  


Parents can truly make an impact on a child’s attitude toward alcohol through an awareness of their own drinking behaviors and by modeling low-risk consumption or abstinence. They can also utilize “teachable moments” such as watching an alcohol commercial or news program with their child, or talking honestly about an alcohol-related tragedy that befalls the family. Discussions about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking, combined with conversations regarding the appropriate use of alcohol, will provide a balanced, healthy view of drinking for the teen.  


And remember: the way your child eventually responds to college challenges will largely depend on his experiences at home – long before he even gets to college.



Role Modeling


Children first learn about alcohol in and around the home, whether it be while sharing dinner with their parents, watching relatives at a family gathering, or listening to drinking stories from an older sibling. 


Consider the role alcohol plays in your own home.


  • Is there a “happy hour” at home?

  • Is alcohol used to celebrate?

  • Is alcohol used to relieve stress? 

  • Is there a heavily stocked liquor cabinet in the house, or are cases of beer stacked in the garage?

  • Does anyone drive after drinking?


Although none of the above factors necessarily indicates a problem, these and other factors in the home can influence a child’s choices. 


Children learn by observing the people around them, especially their parents. It is of critical importance that you provide your child with examples of a healthy attitude about alcohol. In particular, your own actions must be consistent with what you expect from your child because children tend to develop the same drinking patterns as their parents. Actions do speak louder than words. Young adults are sophisticated enough to recognize inconsistencies and will act accordingly. For instance, it is difficult for a parent who smokes marijuana to maintain his credibility when telling a college student not to drink because he or she is underage.


Parents are important role models for their children even through the teen years. It is not surprising that studies indicate that if a parent uses alcohol, his or her children are more likely to drink as well. But even if you use alcohol, there are ways to lessen the likelihood that your teen will drink dangerously. The following guidelines will help you be an effective role model for your teen.


  • Avoid drinking excessively or frequently, particularly in front of your child.

  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol.

  • Let your teen see that you can cope with stress in healthy ways, such as through exercise, listening to music, or talking things over with your spouse, partner, or a friend.

  • When hosting a party, make alcohol-free beverages and plenty of food available.

  • If anyone drinks too much at your party, make arrangements for them to get home safely.





Public health officials and the alcohol industry continue to debate whether alcohol advertising targets teens. But even if ads are not specifically targeted to teens, the fact remains that teens are strongly attracted to alcohol ads, and those ads have at least an indirect affect on a teen’s attitude toward drinking. 


The Federal Trade Commission reports that while many factors may influence an underage person’s drinking decisions, including parents, peers, and the media, there is reason to believe that alcohol advertising also plays a strong role.


  • Alcohol advertising appears continually on the fifteen television shows most popular with teens.

  • Advertising is a major influence in shaping a teen’s expectations of alcohol because children and teens view large amounts of media and tend to depend on the media for information about alcohol.

  • Teens and children learn to drink and to think positively about alcohol not only through the behaviors of their parents, but also by incorporating media personalities’ alcohol-related attitudes and imitating their drinking behavior.

  • Exposure to alcohol advertising shapes attitudes and perceptions about alcohol use among young people. These attitudes and perceptions predict young people’s positive expectancies and intentions to drink.

  • Watching likable or admirable people on television having fun while drinking can encourage teens to drink.

  • Responsibility advertising on television is continually overwhelmed by the sheer volume of product advertising. According to one study, underage youth are ninety-six times more likely to see television commercials promoting alcohol than an industry-funded responsibility ad regarding underage drinking.


While alcohol advertising can play a significant role in the development of alcohol-related attitudes and drinking decisions for teens, it can also provide teachable moments for parents. Parents can influence teen attitudes about drinking through their reactions to and interpretations of alcohol advertisements while in the presence of their children. Parents can also play a decidedly important role in influencing how their children interpret alcohol images and messages portrayed on television shows and in the theater. There is strong research evidence that children of parents who imitate or verbally condone pro-alcohol media messages are more likely to view the effects of alcohol use in a positive light. Conversely, the children of parents who present a healthy interpretation of alcohol messages in the media are more likely to take a negative view of alcohol and its effects.



The Internet

Despite the increasing presence of the internet in children’s lives, very little data exist on the impact of internet advertising on underage drinking patterns. Therefore, when examining the impact of the media on the alcohol attitudes of teens, the internet is well worth mentioning.


Clicking with Kids: Alcohol Marketing and Youth on the Internet, the March 2004 report of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Georgetown University, indicates that alcohol company websites have sizeable youth audiences and contain content that is attractive to teens. Games, cartoons, music, and a variety of high-tech downloads fill many of these sites. Today’s computer-literate teens use the internet in large numbers – and CAMY’s report shows that alcohol industry websites remain a potential playground for them. And since the majority of parental control software programs are mostly ineffective at preventing teens from visiting alcohol sites, underage youth have easy access to them.

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