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Science-Proven Way to Reduce Teen Drinking
By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | August 24, 2016 11:04am ET
SEATTLE — Parents can help prevent their underage kids from drinking by employing a relatively simple strategy: setting clear rules that prohibit drinking, new research shows.
The finding is based on the survey responses from more than 1,100 U.S. teenagers and young adults in 24 cities in seven states. The participants, who were between 15 and 20 years old, reported their partying behavior, and also whether their families had clear rules against drinking.
"Family rules may be a useful complement to community rules and policies" in the effort to prevent underage drinking, said Mark Wolfson, the study's lead researcher and a professor of social sciences and health policy at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. [The Drug Talk: 7 New Tips for Today's Parents]
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It's important to curb underage drinking for many reasons, including that it's often associated with risky behaviors, such as drunk driving, interpersonal violence and vandalism, Wolfson said. It can also lead to binge drinking, which is linked with a host of health problems, including liver disease and certain cancers, according to according to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The finding, though preliminary, could empower families and ultimately help them shape the healthy development of their children, said Adam Lippert, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver who was not involved in the research.
However, further research should investigate which types of parental rules work best, he said.
For example, it's unclear whether it's more effective to have rules that specifically forbid kids from drinking alcohol, or to have more general rules that restrict kids from going to parties or that give them curfews, Lippert said.
Moreover, in an email to Live Science, Kenneth Land, a research professor at the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University who was not involved with the research, noted that, "it would be good to have additional data on birth order of the child and a few other items, such as religious affiliation and ... perhaps on parents' own histories of drinking alcohol [and] attending drinking parties when they were teenagers."
The research had other limitations, too. For example, about 76 percent of the participants were white, so the results may not apply to other groups.
The findings were presented Monday (Aug. 22) at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in Seattle. The study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
This story was originally published on CNN.com in 2015.
Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.