Teen Drinking Goes Up Summer Before College
Monday, July 12, 2010
A new study by the University of Rhode Island shows that underage drinking surges the summer before college – and tells parents that closely monitoring their children is an effective way of stopping it.
The news was not much of a surprise to parents who spoke with GoLocalProv. Carol Hasslinger, whose daughter just graduated from The Wheeler School, said the study confirmed the behavior she would expect of many college-bound teens.
But Hasslinger, who lives in Providence, said she and her husband had taken a variety of approaches to ensuring that their daughter and son, who is now a junior in college, avoided drinking underage. She said giving her daughter responsibility and setting a good example were as important as keeping a close eye on what she does and who she hangs out with.
Teens Need Monitoring… and Responsibility
“I feel like we’re giving her a lot of that responsibility,” Hosslinger said. “We talk about things a lot and I don’t think she’s out to be rebellious. I don’t think she has a reason.”
In the study, URI psychology Professor Mark Wood urges parents to keep close tabs on their children and says they shouldn’t worry about being labeled as “helicopter parents”—hovering over their children and watching their every move.
“We live in a era when students are texting and talking to parents, sometimes many times a day,” Wood said. “Although the term 'helicopter parent' does have a negative connotation, I think conversations about drinking are good whenever and wherever they occur.”
“We’re somewhere in the middle but more towards giving them responsibility because in our experience they’re been able to handle that,” said the father, who asked that his name not be published. “We want to know where they are in general terms—I don’t know where my daughter is every minute of the day.”
Like Hasslinger, he said he also sets an example by drinking in moderation around his children. “When we are drinking, it’s just a glass of wine,” he said. “It’s not something that goes to any extreme at all.”
Several recent college graduates said the study confirmed what they had experienced in the transition from high school to college.
Lynn Roberts and Chanel Ortiz, both recent graduates of University of Rhode Island, said they started drinking more as college approached. “I drank a lot the senior year and then the summer,” Roberts said.
Ortiz said that for most of her high school career she avoided drinking. “I was like the good girl,” Ortiz said. “I went to church.” But she said that all changed the summer after she graduated.
It’s Never Too Late To Intervene
Most American teenagers start drinking as early as 15, according to the study. But for those parents who didn’t nip the problem in the bud, it’s not too late to intervene before their kids head off to college, according to Wood.
“Ideally, parents should be having conversations about alcohol throughout high school,” Wood said. “But it’s never too late to begin an ongoing dialogue about drinking with teens.”
His study, based on a survey of 1,000 incoming freshmen, found that parents who intervene later still have an effect on their kids as they enter college, reducing the likelihood that they will become heavy drinkers or experience other alcohol-related problems.
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