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Drinking and household permissiveness: Some interesting findings

Youths whose parents and family members are permissive towards drinking and the use of marijuana tend to drink more heavily compared to youths whose parents and other family members frown upon alcohol intake and illicit drug use.

This was revealed by a longitudinal survey conducted among a section of the youth population attending schools in South Dakota. It was found that more than a third (76%) of those youth who live in permissive households have had bouts of heavy drinking during ninth grade This is quite a far cry from only eight percent of the youths in non permissive households who reported the same. A similar pattern of drinking was likewise observed as the youths reached 11th grade.

Permissiveness of households was determined based on the reports of the youths regarding the two criteria mentioned above, as well as on whether their parents track their whereabouts and if they set curfews. Of the total youths surveyed, 10% were found to be living in permissive household while another 10% are living in non-permissive ones.

The study, however, does not single out household permissiveness as the only possible cause of the said drinking pattern. It also points out that youth in permissive households were likewise more exposed to certain high risk factors, other than the permissiveness itself that contributed to their drinking. These factors include heavy drinking of a friend or adult whom they regard with importance, a belief that an occasional intake of alcohol is not harmful, and an skepticism towards the belief that they could develop a dependency if they drank alcohol every weekend.

In general, the findings of this study strongly suggest the need for stricter and stronger alcohol prevention programs that will specifically target heaving drinking among youths living in permissive households. The study suggest that on top of reiterating to parents the urgent need for them to monitor the behavior of their adolescent children, prevention programs must also target and address pro-drinking adult and peer influences and youth’s positive attitudes and beliefs towards drinking.

This study adds to the literature which explores the role of family and household conditions to underage drinking and drug use. Of this body of literature, the study at hand provides congruent findings to a research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA. The latter found that around adults, including guardians or parents provided free doses of alcohol to around 40% of underage drinkers in the past month.

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