FRIDAY, Feb. 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- By imposing strict rules about alcohol, parents can reduce their kids' impulses to drink, according to a new study.
Tight parental control over drinking helps inhibit what's called "approach tendencies" in teens, the researchers explained in the study published online and in the May print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Approach tendencies refer to a person's inclination to approach or avoid a stimulus.
"With repeated alcohol use, cues that are previously associated with alcohol use -- such as the sight of a beer bottle -- become increasingly important," study corresponding author Sara Pieters, a researcher at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release. "This might be due to alcohol-induced changes in the brain's reward system and the formation of memory associations."
She and her colleagues looked at the behavior of 238 adolescents (120 females, 118 males) aged 12 to 16 and the alcohol-related rules imposed on them by their parents.
"Results indicated that in young adolescents, approach tendencies were related to alcohol," Pieters said. "However, we found that if parents set strict rules regarding their offspring's alcohol use, adolescents could inhibit these approach tendencies, particularly males. Conversely, permissive parenting seems to exacerbate the link between approach tendencies and alcohol use for adolescent males."
Previous research has already shown that stricter parental rules are associated with less alcohol use by children. But this is the first study to investigate how parental rules affect kids' impulsive processes.
Adolescents may internalize parental rules in such a way that their approach tendencies can be more successfully inhibited, Pieters suggested.
"In summary, the link between parental rule-setting and adolescent alcohol use is well-established, with more rules being associated with less alcohol use. This study extends previous research on this topic by indicating that parental rules might also be related to the degree to which approach tendencies are linked to changes in alcohol use, with approach tendencies being predictive of increases in alcohol use for adolescents with permissive parents," Pieters said in the news release.
"This suggests that parental rule-setting is particularly relevant for adolescents who are already at increased risk to develop alcohol-related problems for reasons such as genetic factors," she added.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about parenting to prevent childhood alcohol use.