Talking To Kids May Reduce Heavy Drinking In College
March 19, 2013

Talking To Kids May Reduce Heavy Drinking In College

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new study suggests talking to your kids about drinking in college before they start their higher education might be very beneficial.

Penn State scientists, writing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, say they found parents who talked to their teenage college students about drinking saw their kids were more likely to abstain from consuming alcohol or to drink only minimally.

"Over 90 percent of teens try alcohol outside the home before they graduate from high school," said Robert Turrisi, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. "It is well known that fewer problems develop for every year that heavy drinking is delayed. Our research over the past decade shows that parents can play a powerful role in minimizing their teens' drinking during college when they talk to their teens about alcohol before they enter college."

The team used 1,900 participants for the study who were chosen by randomly selecting incoming freshman to a large, public northeastern university. Each of the individuals were identified as belonging to one of four groups, including nondrinkers, weekend light drinkers, weekend heavy drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Researchers mailed a handbook developed by Turrisi to parents of the students that contained 22 pages of information including an overview of college student drinking, as well as strategies and techniques for communicating effectively about how alcohol affects the body.

Parents involved in the study were asked to read the handbook and then talk to their teens about its contents at one of three times to which they were randomly assigned, which was either the summer before college, during the first fall semester, or both.

"We were trying to determine the best timing and dosage for delivering the parent intervention," Turrisi said. "For timing, we compared pre-college matriculation to after-college matriculation. For dosage, we compared one conversation about alcohol to two conversations about alcohol."

He said their results found if parents follow the recommendations suggested in his handbook and talk to their teens before they enter college then their children are more likely to remain in the non-drinking to light-drinking groups.

According to Turrisi, talking to your kids in the fall after they have already started college may not work as well.

In 2012, researchers from the same university found even students who were heavy drinkers before college, but had parent-based intervention or peer-based intervention, were more likely to transition out of that group.

Another study found students who have religious parents tend to drink less alcohol in college than their classmates. The researchers from this study found students who used religious practices like praying and meditating as a coping mechanism reported less frequent alcohol use and less heavy drinking.