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Parents ‘supervising’ teens’ underage drinking does more harm than good, new study shows

When it comes to underage drinking, some parents take their good intentions and place them at odds with what they know to be good parenting.

This latest data about the effects of social hosting comes from the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs” and reinforces the argument that the practice of allowing teens to drink alcohol underage under parental “supervision” does more harm than good (an argument you’ve probably heard us make before).

Researchers in this latest study found an association between not only parent-sanctioned underage drinking and increased teen alcohol consumption, but also, in some cases, increased heavy episodic drinking and higher rates of alcohol-related issues.

This data supports the fact that parents allowing their teens to drink underage isn’t a case of the end justifying the means. When parents allow their teens to drink under their “supervision,” it often ends badly. Horror story after horror story after horror story make the case. And it’s safe to say many of these situations never make it to print.

Parents sometimes make an array of excuses in order to justify allowing their teen to drink alcohol.

Justifications for parent-sanctioned underage drinking are misguided. Here are 3 Reasons why parents shouldn’t let their teens drink:

  1. It’s illegal. Do you want to send a message to your teen that it’s ok to break some laws, but not others?
  2. It’s bad for developing brains. A teenager’s brain is not fully developed, and drinking alcohol underage has been shown to hinder healthy brain development.
  3. Parents can face charges. Many states have laws against social hosting. Parents who allow teens to drink underage could face fines and/or jail time.

“Parents probably aren’t aware that social hosting could have criminal implications in some states if things take a bad turn,” study co-author Ken C. Winters, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School said in an article on Join Together. “I can appreciate that social hosting is often done with good intentions. Parents think they are preventing something worse by having their teens drink at home with their friends. But the risks are great.”

The risks are great, indeed.

Putting an end to the underage drinking issue (which continues to decline, btw, thanks to responsible parents and other members of the community) will continue to take a village.

After reviewing 22 studies that examined the association between parental provision of alcohol and teen alcohol consumption, the team of researchers recommends, “parents discourage drinking until adolescents reach legal age.”

We couldn’t agree more. We also realize that can often take a great deal of strength to do, and often parents aren’t sure about the best way to discourage their teen from drinking.

We’re here to help.

Let your teens know underage drinking is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Research continues to show that parents are the leading influence in a teen’s decision to drink — or not to drink — alcohol, so they really are listening, believe it or not. That’s why it’s so important for parents to begin talking about alcohol with their teens at an early age.

Be strong. Take a stand. Lay down the law. Model responsible drinking behavior.

And don’t make good intentions the enemy of good parenting.

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