Monday, June 15, 2009

Misleading Headline

Zero tolerance alcohol policy good choice for parents

That's the headline the Penn State Propaganda Portal put on an article about research done at Penn State on the connection between a parent's tolerance of underage drinking when the their child is living at home and the child's likelihood of binge drinking as a college freshman. The researchers surveyed nearly 300 college freshman who

... related their drinking habits to their parents' modeling and permissibility of alcohol use. Those students whose parents did not permit them to drink underage — about half of the group — were significantly less likely to drink heavily in college, regardless of gender. In addition, "the greater number of drinks that a parent had set as a limit for the teens, the more often they drank and got drunk in college," said Abar. Whether the parents themselves drank, on the other hand, appeared to have little effect on predicting their children's behaviors when accounting for the permissibility they exhibited toward teen alcohol use.

Further research is needed to confirm the preliminary study, said [lead investigator] Abar. For one thing, she did not separate students who specifically drank with their parents at meals from those whose parents allowed their children to drink both inside and outside of the house.

A previous study in 2004 by Kristie Foley, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina, showed that teenagers who received alcohol from their parents for parties were up to three times more likely to binge drink within a month, while those who drank only with the family were less likely to binge. So the context in which a parent provides alcohol may be key.
Why did the folks in the Old Main Propaganda Shop decide to charaterize this study as suggesting that
...there is no scientific basis to the common belief that prohibiting alcohol turns it into a "forbidden fruit" and encourages abuse[,]
when the earlier, better designed study did provide a scientific basis for the the common belief? And why did they use a misleading headline? My guess is that it is part and parcel of Old Main's general policy of shifting of responsibility for Penn State's alcohol abuse problem from the University to anyone else. Bars have been the typical target of Old Main's finger pointing, but this isn't the first time Old Main has suggested that the problem starts at home.

There seems to be a bit of character problem in Old Main.

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3 comments:

moralhazrd said...

Actually, Vebbie, there's also evidence on the side of the zero tolerance approach which is cited in the press release.

" A 2007 study of 1,388 children by Kelli Komro of the University of Florida showed that schoolchildren who were permitted alcohol in the home by their parents in sixth grade were up to three times more likely to get drunk and almost twice as likely to drink heavily (five or more drinks) at ages 12-14.

Researcher Margaret Kerr of Orebro University in Sweden discussed her own experimental evidence in favor of prohibiting alcohol in the home. She and her colleagues have designed a no-drinking intervention program that, in a pilot study published in a scientific journal earlier this year, cut teen drunkenness by 35 percent."

Veblen said...

...those who drank only with the family were less likely to binge
This was the passage to which I alluded. It constitutes evidence for the cw and it stands in contrast to the headline's assertion that zero tolerance is the way for parents to go.

At the very least, it is too early to draw a definitive conclusion with regard to parental tolerance and latter alcohol abuse. I therefore standby this post.

PS. The Swedish study that you mentioned is here. It doesn't at first glance appear to be well designed. It is based on self-reported use of alcohol by children before and after a parental program of demonizing alcohol. That program could certainly result in an under reporting in the follow-up survey.

moralhazrd said...

We have one study that says kids who received alcohol in a family context were less likely to binge than those who received it in a party context. We have a second study that says kids who received alcohol in the home were more likely to binge (the UF study). We have the Swedish study. And then we have the PSU study. All consistently show that the less alcohol provided and the more it is provided in a well controlled family setting, the less likely kids are progress to binge drinking.

You are often correct in your criticism, but you are REALLLLLLLY stretching on this one.