MONDAY, April 26, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Children who aren't allowed to watch R-rated movies are much less likely to start drinking alcohol at an early age, a new study suggests.
Researchers questioned nearly 3,600 middle-school children in New England and followed-up about two years later. In that time, 3 percent of the kids who said their parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies said they had started drinking alcohol, compared with 19 percent of those who were sometimes allowed to watch R-rated movies and 25 percent of those who said they were allowed to watch such movies "all the time."
The findings are reported in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The results highlight how important it is for parents to monitor their children's media exposure, said Dr. James D. Sargent, a pediatrics professor at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and an author of the study.
"We think this is a very important aspect of parenting, and one that is often overlooked," Sargent said in a news release from the journal.
He added that the new findings supplement the work of previous studies that have linked exposure to R-rated movies and shows with adult content to early drinking, early smoking, sex at a young age and violent behavior.
"The research to date suggests that keeping kids from R-rated movies can help keep them from drinking, smoking and doing a lot of other things that parents don't want them to do," Sargent said.
Depictions of alcohol consumption appear in about 90 percent of R-rated movies, Sargent said, which may be one reason why children who see such movies are more likely to start drinking at a young age. But he noted that previous studies have suggested that children who watch R-rated movies become more prone to "sensation seeking" and "risk taking."
"We think seeing the adult content actually changes their personality," he added.
The Nemours Foundation has more about kids and alcohol.