The majority of parents with children ages 10-18 are concerned about a variety of social issues affecting their children. When asked to rate how concerned they are about a series of social issues affecting their children, parents report being most concerned about sex (71%), bullying (71%), and drugs (67%), followed closely by underage drinking (65%), guns (60%), and allergies (53%).
When it comes to underage drinking, parents feel the problem exists on many levels, but my community (50%) is the leading level at which they perceive the problem. Forty-three percent of parents think underage drinking is a national problem, 39% cite the problem lies with their family, 35% say the problem of underage drinking is at their child’s school, and 34% think the problem lies at the state level. However, when asked whose responsibility it is to address the problem 71% identify my family as having the highest level of responsibility to address underage drinking. The next level of responsibility lies with their child’s school, their community, and the state; 61% identified the national level as the group with the lowest level of responsibility to address underage drinking.
Like youth, parents identify “parents” hands down as the leading influence in their child(ren)’s decisions not to drink alcohol at all or not to drink on occasion. Eighty-nine percent of parents believe parents are the leading influence on whether or not kids drink alcohol. A second tier of parents’ perceived influences on their son and/or daughter’s decision not to drink alcohol underage includes friends/peers (57%), brothers/sisters (42%), and teachers (40%). Other influences identified by parents include girlfriend/boyfriend (29%), minister/priest/rabbi (22%), media (22%), police (21%), punishment (21%), advertisements (19%), coach (18%), celebrities (17%), and doctors/health professionals (16%).
- A February 2012 survey among 509 youth 10-18 years old, revealed similar findings in which 83% of youth identified parents as the leading influence on their decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion.
While some parents have not yet talked to their children about underage drinking (10%), those who are having conversations with their children are primarily talking about how alcohol effects the brain and body (67%), drinking and driving is against the law/illegal (64%), alcohol is illegal (58%), and being physically harmed or killed (49%). One-third of parents (34%) report they have a pact with their child that they can call anytime if they are in a situation regarding drinking that they need help out of with no questions asked. Other conversation topics among parents and their children when discussing underage drinking include unprotected/unplanned sex (34%), someone we know who was killed by a drunk driver (31%), family history of alcoholism (25%), the risks of getting in a fight (17%), and alcohol being a “mommy” or “daddy” drink (14%).
The top conversation topics among parents and their children on underage drinking are the same among parents of 10-12 year olds, 13-15 year olds, and 16-18 year olds.
Nearly nine out of ten parents (87%) report when discussing risky behaviors such as underage drinking, they have told, or plan to tell, their children honestly about their own experiences growing up. When asked what they specifically say to deter their children from drinking parents tend to discuss the legal aspects. The top conversations parents report having to deter their children from drinking include explaining they can be arrested/get in trouble with law enforcement (63%), alcohol is illegal (62%), and that they could be killed or kill someone (60%). Other things parents say to deter underage drinking include how the brain and body are still developing and it is not safe to consume alcohol (49%), it can affect grades and school work (47%), how disappointed they will be in them (38%), jeopardizing participation in school activities (sports, clubs, etc.) (38%), in trouble with school (32%), and that they are more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who don’t begin drinking until age 21 (28%). Less than one in ten parents (8%) report they have offered their sons and/or daughters an incentive such as access to the car, money, etc. not to drink.
About the research
The Century Council contracted with Toluna to conduct an online survey of parents with at least one child ages 10-18 living in the household. Using one of Toluna’s demographically diverse panels, an online survey of 600 parents was completed March 14-18, 2013. The data were weighted to ensure the sample was national representative of parents with a 10-18 year old living in their household. Toluna is the world’s leading independent online panel and survey technology provider to the global market research industry. The margin of error for a sample of this size is + 4.0%.