A close-knit family is the best way to keep teenagers out of harm’s way with alcohol.
A close-knit family is the best way to keep teenagers out of harm’s way with alcohol. Kari Bourne

Close ties can help with booze

CLOSE relationships between teenagers and their parents may discourage teenagers from alcohol use according to research conducted by The University of Queensland’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research and the Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne.

The research showed that emotional closeness between fathers and daughters and between mothers and sons may protect young teenagers, and that family conflict was more closely linked to girls’ drinking than boys’ drinking.

It also indicated that parents needed to start early with alcohol-related strategies due to the high levels of risk that even pre-teens were exposed to with respect to alcohol.

Integrated Family and Youth Service chief Paul Morton agreed with the research but said emotional closeness extended beyond just protecting from alcohol abuse.

“It’s not just alcohol but a whole range of things,” he said.

“The more connected a teenager feels to their family the less likely they are to engage in anti-social behaviours. I’m not talking about just skylarking but serious criminal behaviour.”

He said that this was not necessarily the case for all families as there were always other factors at play in terms of teenagers’ behaviour.

“But generally speaking the more a child feels loved and connected to the family unit the less likely they are to engage in at risk behaviour.”

The research used data from the Healthy Neighbourhoods study, which is based on around 7500 kids living in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

The research also confirmed that alcohol use by kids younger than 14 to 18 was a significant problem for many pre-teens.

Mr Morton said it was important to talk to your kids about alcohol even before they were teenagers and to model the behaviour you would like to see them replicate.

“As a parent myself we have always had an open forum and allowed for the discussion of issues at the dinner table,” Mr Morton said.

“A healthy, close family is a great place for a teenager to be.”

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