Successful initiative reduces underage drinking

The majority of Swedish youths have tasted alcohol already by the age of 15. Public health researcher Camilla Pettersson at Örebro University has studied the effects of the parental support programme Strong and Clear. Her research concludes that youths whose parents have been offered advice and support postpone their alcohol debut and get intoxicated to a lesser extent.

– One significant difference is that parents who take part in the parental support programme to a greater extent than non-participating parents maintain a restrictive attitude towards youths and alcohol when the children are between 13 and 16 years old. The programme also contributes to them talking more often about alcohol with their children.

Camilla Pettersson’s doctoral thesis follows up and evaluates a national initiative to support alcohol and drug prevention projects. Commissioned by the government, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has allocated funds to voluntary organisations involved in, among other things, efforts aimed at decreasing alcohol consumption among adolescents. During the period 2003-2009, 69 organisations received support for 135 different projects.

– NGOs play an important role in the preventive work. My focus has particularly been on measures that strengthen parents’ possibilities to prevent alcohol consumption among youths, says Camilla Pettersson.

Strong and clear

One of the projects Camilla Pettersson studied in her thesis is the Strong and Clear scheme run by the temperance organisation IOGT-NTO. This scheme targets parents of children aged 13-16.

The Strong and Clear programme has four components. Parent meetings are organised and the goal is to create alliances between parents and give them the opportunity to discuss questions that are important during the teenage years. The second component in the programme is family dialogues where parents are offered support and advice to help them talk about alcohol and other pressing issues with their teenagers at home.

For the friend meetings, parents are encouraged to do something together with their children and the children’s friends in order to get to know each other, for instance go out for a meal or go bowling. The programme also organises family meetings where both parents and children get a chance to meet other families.

– Strong and Clear has proven very effective and the youths whose parents have participated in the programme taste alcohol on average one year later than the youths whose parents have not taken part. Moreover, at 15 the youths whose parents participated in the scheme did not get themselves intoxicated to the same extent as other youths the same age.

– Generally, it is clear that parents who take part in the programme maintain a restrictive attitude. Unfortunately, not so many fathers took part in the study compared to mothers.

Has to attract all kinds of parents

Camilla Pettersson claims that there is a need for further studies for a deeper understanding of the significance of gender in terms of attitudes to and behaviour regarding the issue of youths and alcohol, but also in terms of interest and participation in parental support programmes. Parents’ level of education is another area where further studies are needed.

– The parents taking part are primarily highly educated. Many parents who do not take part claim that there is no need since their children do not drink alcohol. But we know that a majority of teenagers actually do. Many believe however that it is a good programme for those that are in need of it.

– Of those parents who have been part of the scheme, many claim that it has been helpful in that they talk more to their children about alcohol. It has also been a help in knowing how to talk about it.

– Nevertheless, parents’ background and motivation are important factors to consider since we do not want the initiatives to increase the gaps in society by appealing only to certain parents. The schemes have to attract all kinds of parents.

For more information, please contact:
Camilla Pettersson +46 (0)70-637 34 19