Australian parents’ beliefs about adolescent alcohol consumption: ‘Social clock’ survey

September 2022

NCETA research team: Prof Jacqueline Bowden, Nathan Harrison, Christina Norris, Dr Ashlea Bartram and Dr Susan Kim

Other Collaborators: 

Prof Robin Room (Centre for Alcohol Policy Research), Dr Rebecca Jenkinson (Australian Institute of Family Studies), Prof Ian Olver (University of Adelaide), Prof Simone Pettigrew (The George Institute for Global Health; National Drug Research Institute), Marina Bowshall (Drug and Alcohol Services SA) and Prof Caroline Miller (University of Adelaide; South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute)

Project description: 

Evidence now shows that parental alcohol supply is associated with increased risks of alcohol-related harm for adolescents, including higher levels of later alcohol use. However, many parents believe it is acceptable to allow their adolescent children to commence drinking alcohol under supervision, as a means of teaching ‘responsible’ drinking and to minimise future harms. For this new project, we aim to understand when parents perceive adolescent behaviours such as drinking alcohol to be appropriate (‘social clock’). This information can ensure that public health messaging to address alcohol supply is seen by parents as persuasive and appropriately aligned to adolescents’ perceived maturity.

We recently surveyed 1,197 parents of adolescents (aged 12-17 years) around Australia. Parents reported the ages at which they considered it appropriate for adolescents to start consuming alcohol (at different quantities and in different situations), as well as for other behaviours such as tobacco/e-cigarette, social media, and mobile phone use. We will also explore these perceptions in relation to a number of key behavioural variables, including parenting style, parenting stage, and parents’ awareness of alcohol guidelines.

Our main outcome analyses are pre-registered on the Open Science Framework, and we look forward to sharing findings in due course. Understanding parents’ awareness, attitudes, and intentions regarding adolescent alcohol use will inform future public health interventions to reduce parental supply of alcohol.

This research is funded by a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (to J.B.; grant number 115706), and produced with the financial and other support of Cancer Council SA's Beat Cancer Project on behalf of its donors and the State Government of South Australia through the Department of Health.