Newswise — Alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders in the U.S. greatly increased between 2001 and 2013, particularly among African-American emerging adults (i.e., those 18-29 years of age). Previous research showed that African American youth are unequally exposed to risk factors for substance use such as economic pressures, neighborhood disorder, and racial discrimination. This study examined how African American mothers’ protective parenting and alcohol use influenced their offspring’s drinking and perceptions of drinkers.  

The researchers analyzed three waves of data from 686 young adults (377 women, 309 men), collected as part of an ongoing prospective study of African-American families (the Family and Community Health Study). The first round of data collection was during the teenagers’ 10th grade; the second was from shortly after high-school graduation; and the third was from three years later when most of the offspring were approximately 22 years old. During the second round of data collection, the mothers were queried regarding their protective-parenting behaviors and alcohol use.

Children of mothers who practiced protective-parenting behaviors (by providing clear and specific rules about alcohol use and greater supervision of their children) reported less alcohol use during their transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood.  Mothers who drank alcohol appeared to have a direct effect on their offspring’s alcohol use.  Daughters showed higher alcohol use when maternal attention was also present. Sons formed less favorable perceptions of drinkers when alcohol-related rules were also present. The results led the researchers to emphasize the need for interventions that target culturally-specific risk and protective factors within a family environment, in order to reduce health disparities in this vulnerable population of youth.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research