Study shows parenting styles affect alcohol abuse

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

A recent study done by a Baylor researcher suggests that young adults whose parents monitor their social interactions are less likely to have alcohol-related problems, and that young adults monitored by a parent of the opposite gender exhibit an even stronger correlation between parent interaction and less impulsivity.

“While there’s a plethora of research showing that low parental monitoring contributes to risky behavior, very few researchers have examined the effects of parental monitoring separated out by mothers and fathers,” said Dr. Julie Patock-Peckham, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and one of the authors of the study.

Patock-Peckham said this is the first study to research the link between parenting style and parental monitoring as well as exploring the monitoring style of each parent individually.

The study tested 81 college students from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and San Diego State University.

The students that participated completed a survey that asked the parenting styles of both their mothers and fathers, perceptions each of their parents had of their friendships and social plans, and questions about their own alcohol-related problems.

Patock-Peckham said she was interested in studying the drinking habits of college students because this period is when these habits really start taking hold.

Her hypotheses before beginning the study included thinking two styles of parenting, authoritarian and authoritative, would prove to be beneficial for monitoring.

In the study parents were classified as authoritarian, authoritative or permissive.

Authoritarian parents are characterized by an emphasis on rules and obedience and a lack of discussion.

Authoritative parents are characterized by clear rules and instructions, but with an atmosphere of open discussion.

Permissive parents are characterized by behaving more like a friend than a parent.

“We expected an atmosphere of rules to play into monitoring,” Patock-Peckham said. “But our study shows that having strict house rules does not mean that emerging adults feel that parents really know about their social life or plans.”

Results from the study showed authoritative parents were most likely to do a better job of monitoring their children’s lives and social plans, compared to permissive parents who were least likely to effectively monitor their children.

Authoritarian parents seemed to have neither an advantage nor a disadvantage in terms of monitoring.

Further analysis of the data showed that more parental monitoring by the opposite-gender parent can directly reduce alcohol-related problems by buffering impulsiveness.

“It’s well known that people who are more impulsive are more likely to struggle with control over their drinking and are more likely to experience alcohol–related problems than their less impulsive counterparts,” Patock-Peckham said. “People seem to think that women or girls will be OK if just their mothers are involved in their lives, and this is really showing fathers they have an impact.”

Dr. Emilio Ulloa of San Diego State University also helped author the study and said the research shows the effect parents have on their children is complex.

“Parental monitoring, as defined in our research, may seem benign on the surface, but is likely the expression of a deeper relationship between parent and child based on sharing and trust in both directions,” Ulloa said. “ I think our research might actually speak to fathers more than mothers as few will be surprised about the role mothers can play in the social development of their children. It could also be that the findings highlight emerging trends in shared responsibility among parents.”

Patock-Peckham also believes this could be a generational change.

“It’s completely speculative, as this is really a new finding, but I believe it has to do with the socialization process from one generation to the next,” Patock-Peckham said. “Perhaps it has something to do with learning how members of the opposite gender view and value certain behaviors.”

Dr. Kevin King of the University of Washington, Dr. Antonio Morgan-Lopez of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Jennifer Filson Moses, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, also authored the study.

The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.