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Health & Well-Being

Trees flower near Roble dorm before spring's arrival. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Parents Role in Student Alcohol Use: Myths v Facts

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Many students come to campus with healthy norms and expectations around alcohol use. However, within the first six weeks of arriving to campus, uncertainty about what the "college experience" is supposed to be, coupled with new levels of independence can lead to high risk drinking and related consequences. For some, these consequences can prevent them from engaging in all that Stanford has to offer. For these reasons, we encourage you to start the conversation about alcohol use before your student arrives and continue that conversation during this transitional period. 

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Myths and Facts

  • Myth 1: "Peers are much more influential when it comes to whether or not my child is going to drink. My child won't listen to me."
    • Fact: Studies consistently show that parents have a significant impact on their college students' alcohol use. Thus, it is critical for students to hear their parents reiterate expectations about substance use. (Abar & Turrisi, 2008; Turner et al., 2000; Turrisi & Ray, 2010; Wood et al. 2004). 
  • Myth 2: "Maybe I'm too strict when it comes to alcohol. Other parents don't seem to think it's a big deal for their students to drink."
    • Fact: Parents regularly overestimate other parents' approval of alcohol use by their respective child. In turn, this makes parents question if their attitudes about their child drinking are overly cautious or strict when in fact most parents are not permissive of underage drinking and other assumed norms (LaBrie et al. 2011).
  • Myth 3: "If I provide alcohol to my child at home, my child will be less likely to drink irresponsibly in college"
    • Fact: Evidence suggests that children whose parents provide them alcohol (both with and without supervision) are at an increased risk for high risk drinking and alcohol-related problems. (Kaynak et al. 2014).
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  1. Abar, C., & Turrisi, R. (2008). How important are parents during the college years? A longitudinal perspective of indirect influences parents yield on their college teens’ alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors33(10), 1360–1368.
  2. Turner AP, Larimer ME, Sarason IG (2000). Family risk factors for alcohol-related consequences and poor adjustment in fraternity and sorority members: Exploring the role of parent-child conflict. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 818–826.
  3. Turrisi, R., & Ray, A. E. (2010). Sustained Parenting and College Drinking in First-Year Students. Developmental Psychobiology52(3), 286–294.
  4. Wood MD, Read JP, Mitchell RE, Brand NH (2004). Do parents still matter? Parent and peer influences on alcohol involvement among recent high school graduates. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18, 19–30.
  5. LaBrie, J. W., Hummer, J. F., Lac, A., Ehret, P. J., & Kenney, S. R. (2011). Parents Know Best, But Are They Accurate? Parental Normative Misperceptions and Their Relationship to Students’ Alcohol-Related Outcomes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs72(4), 521–529.
  6. Kaynak, Ö., Winters, K. C., Cacciola, J., Kirby, K. C., & Arria, A. M. (2014). Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs75(4), 590–605.