Adolescents who share a strong bond with their parents often start drinking at a later age, which could subsequently prevent them from developing future alcohol problems, says a new study.
The results of the study highlight the importance of the role played by parents in the risk of problem drinking.
Earlier studies have indicated that the age at which kids start drinking governs whether they eventually develop alcohol-related problems, like getting into fights or having academic or work problems.
Thus, Dr. Emmanuel Kuntsche, of the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems in Lausanne, Switzerland, has said that it is often assumed that drinking at an early age, in and of itself, is the problem.
"Our work shows that the 'preventive effect' of a later drinking age is likely to be a side effect of a good parent-child relationship. In other words, the circumstances in which that first drinks occurs-and how parents deal with it-is important," said Kuntsche.
In the study, researchers surveyed 364 teenagers three times over two years.
It was found that generally, teens, who reported an earlier drinking age during the first survey, tended to be drinking more heavily by the second survey and were at greater risk of drinking-related problems by the third survey.
After looking a little closer at the data, researchers noticed that only teenagers, who reported both a later drinking age and a high-quality relationship with their parents, had a lower risk of drinking problems compared with their peers.
A high-quality relationship was one where teenagers felt they could discuss their problems with their parents and that their parents respected their feelings.
The findings, according to the researchers, suggest that such parent-child relationships can "trigger a spiral of healthy development during adolescence" that may lead to a lower risk of alcohol problems.
Kuntsche said that parents should remember how important they are when it comes to their children's risk of substance abuse.
Also, being attentive to their children's needs in general, may be one way to protect them from developing drinking problems.
The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.