Alcohol abuse linked to teens’ early maturation, minimal supervision

1. Girls who experienced pubertal maturation early in life and reported the least amount of parental supervision were at the highest risk for developing issues associated with alcohol consumption.

2. Adolescents who had the greatest issues with alcohol abuse at baseline saw the highest increases in parental autonomy granting over time.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)     

Study Rundown: Alcohol abuse in adolescence has been previously shown to be associated with depression, suicide, violence, accidents, and the spread of infectious disease. Children who mature earlier in life may have an increased risk for alcohol abuse. Authors of the current study, which took place in Sweden, sought to determine if premature autonomy granting by parents would predict escalating alcohol abuse in adolescents. Results indicated a greater risk for alcohol abuse in girls who matured early and had the most amount of parental autonomy. Also, higher initial levels of alcohol abuse were associated with greater decreases in parental supervision over time. These associations remained significant even after controlling for friends’ ages and level of alcohol abuse. This study may be limited by self-report bias, lack of generalizability, and the legal drinking age in Sweden being 18 years. However, these findings should encourage physicians and providers to counsel parents and early maturing girls about the dangers of early alcohol consumption.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Ten-year prospective study of public health problems associated with early drinking

In-Depth [prospective cohort]: A total of 967 adolescent girls, ages 12-14 years, from Sweden were included for analysis. Participants completed a questionnaire yearly for 5 years and were informed that their answers would not be shared with their parents, teachers, or the police. Questions focused on self-perception of autonomy granted by parents, frequency of alcohol intoxication, and age of menstruation. Researchers controlled for friend age and friend level of alcohol abuse. Participants were categorized as early-maturing (menarche before age 12), on-time (menarche between 12 and 13), or late maturing (menarche after age 13). In early maturing girls, greater levels of autonomy granting were associated with increases in adolescent alcohol abuse (p = .002). From 7th to 10th grades, alcohol abuse increased by an estimated 84%, 160%, and 234% for girls who had low, medium, and high levels of autonomy granting, respectively. The greater the initial level of alcohol abuse, the higher the increase in perceived parental autonomy granting in adolescent girls (p = .004). An estimated 12%, 18%, and 24% increase in autonomy granting was seen in low, medium, and high levels of adolescent alcohol abuse, respectively.

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