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How parents can influence students’ alcohol habits

Researchers followed 1,700 students from Penn State for four years.

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Parents can influence alcohol habits. Professor Kimberly Mallett said: “It’s empowering for parents to know they can make a difference."
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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Parents have a bigger influence on the alcohol habits of students than their friends - even when they move out of the family home, suggests a new study.

Even without their moms and dads around, students who think their parents disapprove of drinking are likely to suffer much fewer negative consequences from booze during university, according to the findings.

The consequences include blacking out, being hung over, having an embarrassing experience and missing work or school.

Researchers followed 1,700 students for four years, surveying them twice a year from Penn State University.

Each student was surveyed on how much they drank, how many alcohol-related consequences they experienced, why they experienced them, and how they viewed them.

On average, students at the American university suffered from 102 alcohol-related consequences throughout their four years.

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Study lead author Shannon Glenn, a doctoral candidate in biobehavioral health at Penn State University, said: “The amount of alcohol students drank impacted the total number of consequences they experienced.

“As drinking increased, so did the consequences.”

The most common consequence was having a hangover, with 96.7 percent of students suffering from one during their time at university.

The second most common was saying or doing an embarrassing thing, which affected 96.1 percent of students at least once.

Nearly 25 percent of students said they had been pressured or forced to have sex with someone because they were too drunk to prevent it.

The survey also showed how students have an increased tolerance to alcohol.

Clinical psychologist Professor Kimberly Mallett, of Penn State University, said: “More than 70 percent of respondents said they ‘needed larger amounts of alcohol to feel any effect,’ which is concerning because this indicates increased tolerance to alcohol and is an early risk factor for developing an alcohol use disorder.”

Students also answered questions about how their parents would react to their drinking.

Those who thought their parents would disapprove of alcohol-related consequences had fewer issues overall, according to the findings.

Exhausted man can't wake up after housewarming party
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Dr. Mallett said: “The research shows that parents have an influence on students’ drinking habits and whether they experience problems from drinking.

“Kids really look to their parents for guidance in a lot of ways even if they don't outwardly say it.”

The scientists suggest that parents should keep an open dialogue about drinking at college with their children. They should talk to them about the serious consequences of drinking, discuss how to handle possible drinking scenarios and suggest ways to not drink so much that they put themselves in danger.

Dr. Mallett added: “It’s empowering for parents to know they can make a difference.

“For parents who have been permissive about drinking in the past, it’s never too late to switch gears.”

But it isn’t just the parents who need to take action. The researchers believe that more protocols need to be put in place at universities to help identify individuals who are having issues with alcohol so that they can receive help before their drinking gets too bad.

The findings were published in the journal Addictive Behaviours.

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