A new study suggests that children that have a good relationship with their parents have less of a chance to develop alcohol-related problems. The findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs , underscore the important role parents play in the risk of problem drinking.

Dr. Emmanuel Kuntsche, of the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems in Lausanne, Switzerland, says “…the circumstances in which that first drinks occurs — and how parents deal with it — is important.”

For their study, Kuntsche and his colleagues surveyed 364 teenagers three times over two years. They found that in general, 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.

But a closer look at the data revealed the importance of parents’ influence. In fact, 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, Kuntsche and his colleagues say, 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. Parents, Kuntsche said, should remember how important they are when it comes to their children’s risk of substance abuse. Being attentive to their children’s needs in general, he noted, may be one way to protect them from developing drinking problems or if they have them then attention and support during alcohol rehab, drug rehab, or alcohol treatmentt may make treatment more successful.

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