Growing Up in a Permissive Household

What Deters At-Risk Adolescents from Heavy Drinking?

Published In: Journal of Studies On Alcohol and Drugs, v. 69, no. 4, July 2008, p. 528-534

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2007

by Joan S. Tucker, Phyllis L. Ellickson, David J. Klein

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OBJECTIVE: This study identified psychosocial factors that may deter adolescents living in permissive households from heavy drinking in Grades 9 and 11. METHOD: Longitudinal data were obtained from 710 youth who completed surveys from Grades 7 to 11. Permissive household was defined based on adolescent reports of whether the parents (1) would be upset if the adolescent drank or used marijuana, (2) knew their child's whereabouts when the adolescent was away from home, and (3) set curfews. Frequency of heavy drinking in the last 30 days was the number of days the adolescent had at least three alcoholic drinks. RESULTS: Three quarters of adolescents from permissive households reported heavy drinking at Grade 9, with less frequent heavy drinking among those who concurrently reported less exposure to peer and adult drinking, less peer approval of drinking, weaker positive beliefs about drinking, a stronger academic orientation, higher resistance self-efficacy, and less delinquency. Further, social influences and alcohol beliefs predicted the frequency of heavy drinking 2 years later among adolescents from permissive households. Although most of these factors were also relevant for adolescents from nonpermissive households, social influences, alcohol beliefs and resistance self-efficacy were stronger predictors of heavy drinking at Grade 9 among youth from permissive households. CONCLUSIONS: Growing up in a permissive household was associated with heavy drinking. Nonetheless, several psychosocial factors were associated with less frequent heavy drinking even within this at-risk population. Alcohol prevention programs that target prodrinking peer and adult influences, positive attitudes toward drinking, and resistance self-efficacy may be particularly important in deterring heavy drinking among adolescents living in permissive households.

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