*The following is excerpted from an online article from MedicalXpress.
Inadequate supervision by parents during early adolescence forecasts a host of behavior problems, including problem drinking. The risk of alcohol abuse arising from inadequate parental supervision is particularly high for girls who reach puberty early, according to a new study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University, and published in the journal Pediatrics.
This study tests the hypothesis that premature autonomy granting at the beginning of secondary school predicts escalating alcohol abuse across the critical ages of 13 to 16, when youth typically begin to consume alcohol.
This study examined over-time associations between parent autonomy granting and adolescent alcohol abuse during a developmental period when alcohol consumption becomes increasingly normative. The researchers were able to determine if early maturing girls are at special risk from problems as a result of a lack of parental supervision.
Results of the study revealed that alcohol consumption increased in all of the girls as they got older. For “on time” and “late maturing” girls, parental autonomy granting did not have much of an impact on rates of alcohol abuse. However, for early maturing girls, parental autonomy granting made a big difference. For early maturing girls whose parents kept a close eye on them, there was an 84 percent increase in alcohol abuse from the seventh to the 10th grade. Those granted average levels of autonomy by parents had a 160 percent increase in alcohol abuse, and finally, those given the most autonomy had the highest rates of alcohol abuse, with intoxication frequency increasing an average of 234 percent.
Another finding showed that the more girls drank at the beginning of adolescence, the more autonomy they were granted by parents over the course of adolescence. Parents tended to withdraw supervision of adolescent girls with most drinking problems.
“Early maturing girls are quite distinct from their age mates and often seek the company of older peers, so as not to stand out physically,” said Brett Laursen, Ph.D., professor and graduate studies coordinator in FAU’s Department of Psychology. “Affiliation with older peers creates vulnerability, because influence is not equally distributed between friends, and younger partners tend to adopt the drinking habits of older partners. Another problem is that the groups of older peers who are most likely to welcome early maturing girls into their midst tend to receive little adult supervision and, perhaps not surprisingly, are often involved in deviant activities.”