A Preliminary Examination of the Effects of Perceived Parent Approval toward Lower and Higher Risk Drinking Situations on Alcohol-Related Consequences in a Sample of Underage Adults

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Parents of young adults may approve of their child drinking in lower risk drinking situations (LRDS) because they believe it will prevent their child from drinking in more risky ways. However, when young adults believe their parents approves of drinking in LRDS they experience more negative alcohol consequences, not less. A plausible explanation for the effects of LRDS on risky drinking is that approval toward LRDS implicitly suggests approval toward other drinking situations that most parents would not permit (i.e., higher risk drinking situations [HRDS]). The current study addresses a gap in the literature by investigating perceived parental approval of drinking in HRDS as a mediator of perceived LRDS approval on underage emerging adults’ (UEAs’) drinking and consequences. UEAs (18–20 years of age) were recruited from all 50 states via MTurk to complete a two-part web-based survey study (N=315). Measures included in the mediation model were perceived parental approval of drinking (both LRDS and HRDS related), peak drinking occasion consumption, alcohol-related consequences, and baseline covariates (birth sex and perceived peer drinking norms). Results from the mediation model revealed that perceived LRDS approval was associated with increases in perceived HRDS approval, which, in turn, predicted consequences (controlling for baseline peak drinking, consequences, and covariates). Findings from this study provide the first evidence to support perceived HRDS approval as a mechanism through which LRDS approval influences alcohol-related consequences. These results suggest that PBIs may benefit from targeting parent approval toward both LRDS and HRDS.

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