The study, published this month in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, focused on a program that educates parents on the differences between how much alcohol they believe college students drink, the attitudes they believe other parents have towards their children's drinking, and the actual realities.
The program is designed to help parents avoid "parent peer pressure" by showing them that other parents are not as laid back and permissive as they may believe.
"We tend to think of peer pressure as something that only young people have to deal with," said Joseph LaBrie, a professor of psychology at LMU and the lead author of the study. "But all of us implicitly feel a need to conform to what we think everyone else is doing. The problem is that, when it comes to health behaviors, we are often wrong in our perceptions of how others are thinking and behaving."
In the study, funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, parents of incoming college freshmen were randomly assigned to attend either the interactive alcohol presentation or a control session during summer orientation. In the presentation, researchers polled parents about their attitudes and perceptions surrounding alcohol use.
The live results showed parents were underestimating how much their child would drink in college, underestimating how often parents communicate about alcohol with their kids, and, most importantly, overestimating how "chill" other parents are about underage drinking.
Four months later, after their first month in college, the freshman class was surveyed about their drinking habits. Students whose parents had been randomly assigned to get the interactive presentation averaged just over three drinks per week, while the students whose parents were in the control group averaged nearly five and a half.
In addition, among the 40 percent of the students who had not drank in the last months of high school, those whose parents came to the interactive intervention were 65 percent less likely to start drinking during the fall semester. The parent intervention even worked among heavier-drinking students: those whose parents participated in the program were significantly less likely to binge drink or to experience negative alcohol-related consequences like missing classes, getting sick, or having unwanted sexual encounters.
"Parents play a bigger role in shaping their children's alcohol use than either group may realize—even during college years," LaBrie said. "Our research shows parent programs that stress the difference between perception and reality can have a strong impact in reducing the likelihood of dangerous drinking among college students."
The full study can be found online at http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/adb/30/5/.
About Loyola Marymount University
Located between the Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University is ranked third in "Best Regional Universities/West" by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1911, LMU is the largest Jesuit, Catholic university in the Southwest, with more than 6,000 undergraduate students and more than 3,000 graduate and law students. A comprehensive university, LMU offers 57 undergraduate majors and 51 minor programs, along with 43 master's degree programs, one education doctorate, one juris doctorate, one doctorate of juridical science and 13 credential/authorization programs. LMU news and events are found at: www.lmu.edu/news.
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SOURCE Loyola Marymount University