Young Girls Abuse Alcohol More With Lack of Parental Supervision

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Daniel J. Dickson, M.A. Graduate Student and
Brett Laursen PhD
Department of Psychology
Florida Atlantic University

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

Response: With age, adolescents spend more time with peers, and engage in drinking behaviors at increasing levels. In particular, girls who reach puberty at earlier ages than their peers are at higher risk for abusing alcohol. This may be because early maturing girls seek out the company of older more mature peers, ​who have greater access to alcohol and (in the case of those prone to delinquency) may be more welcoming to younger girls who are having difficulties with agemates.

Our study investigates the association between changes in parental autonomy granting and girls’ alcohol abuse over a three year period (ages 13-16), as a function of timing of pubertal maturation.

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

Response: The results indicate that when parents grant early maturing girls relatively high levels of autonomy, there were dramatic increases in girls’ alcohol abuse (234%). In contrast, when parents granted relatively low levels of autonomy, increases in alcohol abuse were comparatively less (84%).

Regardless of girls’ pubertal timing, parents granted more autonomy over time to girls who initially abused alcohol at higher rates. These associations were maintained even after accounting for the age and drinking behaviors of girls’ friends and peers.

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

Response:  Parents should be aware that providing early maturing girls’ too much autonomy too quickly may increase opportunities for girls to engage in alcohol abuse, which often occurs in unsupervised peer settings.

​The findings are not an endorsement of parental restrictiveness (e.g. helicopter parenting), which interferes with the maintenance of family ties, and may encourage girls to rebel and seek out harmful friendships. Instead, parents should strive to maintain close ties with youth, avoiding alienation and rapidly withdrawing supervision.

Clinicians should direct families to intervention programs that balance supervision and engagement. We encourage clinicians to educate parents about the unique risks borne out of early maturing girls’ peer environment. Clinicians should emphasize that the maintenance of appropriate levels of supervision may protect against deviant socialization practices, particularly if it is coupled with warm, close family ties.

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

Response: Future research should attempt to disentangle the protective influence of supervision from other behaviors which similarly predict positive adolescent outcomes. For example, parental oversight of adolescent behavior may vary as a function of the closeness (or quality) of the parent-adolescent relationship, or may vary as a function of the tendency for adolescents to freely disclose their activities to parents.

Citation:

Parental Supervision and Alcohol Abuse Among Adolescent Girls

Daniel J. Dickson, Brett Laursen, Håkan Stattin, and Margaret Kerr

Pediatrics peds.2015-1258; published ahead of print September 21, 2015, doi:10.1542/peds.2015-1258

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Daniel J. Dickson, M.A. and, & Brett Laursen PhD (2015). Young Girls Abuse Alcohol More With Lack of Parental Supervision