Is It Really Safer For Teens To Drink Alcohol At Home?

Heather Fay, MHS Program Services FCD Educational Services Newton, MA

Heather Fay MHS Interview with:
Heather Fay, MHS

Program Services
FCD Educational Services
Newton, MA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was conducted by FCD Prevention Works, an international non-profit focused on school-based, substance abuse prevention. Using FCD’s database of over 50,000 6th-12th grade student survey responses, we sought to explore the relationship between parental permission of student substance use and negative consequences related to substance use.

We compared student alcohol and other drug use in the home, with or without a parent’s knowledge, to students’ self-reported negative consequences related to their own alcohol use. As might be expected, students who used alcohol or other drugs at home without their parents knowing were more likely to report negative consequences in the past 12 months related to their alcohol own use. Students who used at home with their parents knowing were protected against some negative consequences. These students were less likely than students who did not report this behavior to feel guilty about their drinking or regret something they did while drinking. However, these same students were at an increased risk of experiencing negative consequences related to addiction. These consequences included those which are indicative of a mounting dependency on alcohol, such as needing a drink or other drug first thing in the morning, using alcohol or other drugs alone, passing out because of drinking, and getting hurt or injured as a direct result of their alcohol use.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Working in prevention, FCD finds that all use of any substance by a developing adolescent has health risks, and the results of this study further reflect that truth. Adolescent use of alcohol or another drug in the family home, with or without a parent’s knowledge, comes with multiple health risks.

The results of the study also contradict the common attitude that it is safest for teens to drink at home under parental supervision. While that attitude can protect adolescents against some short-term negative consequences of use, it places adolescents at greater risk for long-term negative consequences, including addiction. Being able to accurately communicate and clarify the risks associated with adolescent alcohol use should be the priority for public health professionals and clinicians. Both adolescent patients, as well as their parents, and their medical professionals can be advised of the consequences of alcohol use in the home, even with parental knowledge. Clinician conversations about family health practices with teens and their caregivers can be extended to take this information into account.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: In order to further explore the relationship between parents and their children, a survey of the parent population would provide great insight into variations within diverse parenting practices. A comprehensive parent survey, similar to the student survey, would allow researchers to explore how variations in rules, monitoring, and supervision influence adolescent alcohol and other drug use and consequences related to that use.


Abstract presented at the APHA’s 143rd Annual Meeting in Chicago

Alcohol and Other Drug Use in the Home: What Parents Are Teaching Adolescents
Heather Fay, MHS, Program Services, FCD Educational Services, Newton, MA
Desirae Vasquez, MHS, Program Services, FCD Educational Services, Newton, MA

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Heather Fay, MHS (2015). Is It Really Safer For Teens To Drink Alcohol At Home? 

Last Updated on November 4, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD