Prevention Science

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 716–724 | Cite as

Hurting, Helping, or Neutral? The Effects of Parental Permissiveness Toward Adolescent Drinking on College Student Alcohol Use and Problems

  • Lindsey Varvil-WeldEmail author
  • D. Max Crowley
  • Rob Turrisi
  • Mark T. Greenberg
  • Kimberly A. Mallett


To enhance prevention efforts to reduce college drinking, parents have been identified as an important source of influence that can be modified with brief interventions. Research suggests parental permissiveness toward drinking in adolescence is positively related to college student drinking, though existing studies have not comprehensively accounted for potential confounders (e.g., parental drinking). The present study used propensity modeling to estimate the effects of pre-college parental permissiveness on college student drinking and consequences while accounting for an inclusive range of confounders. A random sample of 1,518 incoming students at a large university completed baseline measures of parental permissiveness and a list of confounders (e.g., parental drinking, family history). At follow-up 15 months later, participants reported on their drinking and alcohol-related consequences. To control for potential confounders, individuals were weighted based on their propensity scores to obtain less biased estimates of the effects of parental permissiveness on drinking and consequences. Analyses revealed parental permissiveness was consistently and positively associated with college drinking and consequences when the confounders were not accounted for, but these effects were attenuated after weighting. Parents' allowance of drinking was not related to college drinking or consequences after weighting. Students' perceived parental limits for consumption were related to drinking and consequences in the weighted models. Prevention efforts may benefit from targeting parents' communication of acceptable limits for alcohol consumption.


College student drinking Parental permissiveness Propensity model 



This research was supported by grant R01AA015737 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Rob Turrisi, Ph.D. Analysis and preparation of this manuscript were supported by grant F31AA021302-01A1 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Lindsey Varvil-Weld and grant T32DA0176 from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to Max Crowley.


  1. Abar, C. C. (2012). Examining the relationship between parenting types and patterns of student alcohol-related behavior during the transition to college. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 26, 20–29.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Abar, C., & Turrisi, R. (2008). How important are parents during the college years? A longitudinal perspective of indirect influences parents yield on their college teens' alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors, 33, 1360–1368.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Abar, C., Abar, B., & Turrisi, R. (2009). The impact of parental modeling and permissibility on alcohol use and experienced negative drinking consequences in college. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 542–547.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, P., & Baumberg, B. (2006). Alcohol in Europe. London, England: Institute of Alcohol Studies.Google Scholar
  5. Arria, A. M., Kuhn, V., Caldeira, K. M., O'Grady, K. E., Vincent, K. B., & Wish, E. D. (2008). High school drinking mediates the relationship between parental monitoring and college drinking: A longitudinal analysis. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 3, 567–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baer, J. S. (1994). Effects of college residence on perceived norms for alcohol consumption: An examination of the first year in college. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 8, 43–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borsari, B., & Carey, K. B. (2003). Descriptive and injunctive norms in college drinking: A meta-analytic integration. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 64, 331–341.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Borsari, B., Murphy, J. G., & Barnett, N. P. (2007). Predictors of alcohol use during the first year of college: Implications for prevention. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 2062–2086.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Chassin, L., & Handley, E. D. (2006). Parents and families as contexts for the development of substance use and substance use disorders. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 20, 135–137.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cleveland, M. J., Lanza, S. T., Ray, A. E., Turrisi, R., & Mallett, K.A. (2011). Transitions in first-year college student drinking behaviors: Does pre-college drinking moderate the effects of parent- and peer-based intervention components? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Advance online publication. Google Scholar
  11. Cloud, J. (2008). Should you drink with your kids? TIME Magazine. Retrieved from,9171,1816475,00.html.
  12. Coffman, D. L., & Zhong, W. (2013). Assessing mediation using marginal structural models in the presence of confounding and moderation. Psychological Methods, In press.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, J. (1992). Statistical power analysis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, 98–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cole, S. R., & Hernan, M. A. (2008). Constructing inverse probability weights for marginal structural models. American Journal of Epidemiology, 168, 656–664.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Collins, R. L., Parks, G. A., & Marlatt, G. A. (1985). Social determinants of alcohol consumption: The effects of social interaction and model status on the self-administration of alcohol. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53, 189–200.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. D'Agostino, R. B. (1998). Propensity score methods for bias reduction in the comparison of a treatment to a non-randomized control group. Statistics in Medicine, 17, 2265–2281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Dimeff, L. A., Baer, J. S., Kivlahan, D. R., & Marlatt, G. A. (1999). Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A harm reduction approach. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  18. Fairlie, A. M., Wood, M. D., & Laird, R. D. (2012). Prospective protective effects of parents on peer influences and college alcohol involvement. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 26, 30–41.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Foley, K. L., Altman, D., Durant, R. H., & Wolfson, M. (2004). Adults' approval and adolescents' alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 35, 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fromme, K. (2006). Parenting and other influences on the alcohol use and emotional adjustment of children, adolescents, and emerging adults. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 20, 138–139.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Harder, V. S., Stuart, E. A., & Anthony, J. C. (2010). Propensity score techniques and the assessment of measured covariate balance to test causal associations in psychological research. Psychological Methods, 15, 234–249. doi: 10.1037/a0019623.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hingson, R., Heeren, T., Winter, M., & Wechsler, H. (2005). Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24: Changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 259–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hurlbut, S. C., & Sher, K. J. (1992). Assessing alcohol problems in college students. Journal of American College Health, 41, 49–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2007). What colleges need to know now: An update on college drinking research (NIH Publication No. 07-5010). Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.Google Scholar
  25. Johnson, T. P., & Mott, J. A. (2001). The reliability of self-reported age of onset of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use. Addiction, 96, 1187–1198.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2011). Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2010: Volume II, College students & adults ages 19–50. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  27. Littell, R. (2006). SAS for mixed models (2nd ed.). Cary, NC: SAS Institute.Google Scholar
  28. Livingston, J. A., Testa, M., Hoffman, J. H., & Windle, M. (2010). Can parents prevent heavy episodic drinking by allowing teens to drink at home? Addictive Behaviors, 35, 1105–1112.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Mallett, K. A., Ray, A. E., Turrisi, R., Belden, C., Bachrach, R. L., & Larimer, M. E. (2010). Age of drinking onset as a moderator of the efficacy of parent-based, brief motivational, and combined intervention approaches to reduce drinking and consequences among college students. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 34, 1154–1161.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Mallett, K. A., Marzell, M., Varvil-Weld, L., Turrisi, R., & Guttman, K. (2011). One-time or repeat offenders? An examination of the patterns of alcohol-related consequences experienced by college students across the freshman year. Addictive Behaviors, 36, 508–511.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. McCabe, S. E., Boyd, C. J., Couper, M. P., Crawford, S., & D'Arcy, H. (2002). Mode effects for collecting alcohol and other drug use data: Web and US mail. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63, 755–761.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McCabe, S. E., Hughes, T. L., Bostwick, W., & Boyd, C. J. (2005). Assessment of difference in dimensions of sexual orientation: implications for substance use research in a college-age population. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 66, 620–629.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Neal, D. J., & Fromme, K. (2007). Event-level covariation of alcohol intoxication and behavioral risks during the first year of college. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 294–306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Patock-Peckham, J. A., King, K. M., Morgan-Lopez, A. A., Ulloa, E. C., & Filson-Moses, J. M. (2011). Gender-specific meditational links between parenting styles, parental monitoring, impulsiveness, drinking control, and alcohol-related problems. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72, 247–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Peele, S. (2007). Addiction-proof your child. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  36. Read, J. P., Wood, M. D., Kahler, C. W., Maddock, J. E., & Palfai, T. P. (2003). Examining the role of drinking motives in college student alcohol use and problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 17, 13–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Read, J. P., Beattie, M., Chamberlain, R., & Merrill, J. E. (2008). Beyond the “binge” threshold: Heavy drinking patterns and their association with alcohol involvement indices in college students. Addictive Behaviors, 33, 225–234.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Robins, J. M., Hernán, M. A., & Brumback, B. (2000). Marginal structural models and causal inference in epidemiology. Epidemiology, 11, 550–560.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Rosenbaum, P. R., & Rubin, D. B. (1983). The central role of the propensity score in observational studies for causal effects. Biometrika, 70, 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rubin, D. B. (1976). Inference and missing data. Biometrika, 63, 581–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7, 147–177.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Sher, K. J., & Descutner, C. (1986). Reports of paternal alcoholism: Reliability across siblings. Addictive Behaviors, 11, 25–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Shillington, A. M., & Clapp, J. D. (2006). Heavy alcohol use compared to alcohol and marijuana use: Do college students experience a difference in substance use problems? Journal of Drug Education, 36, 91–103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Spoth, R., Redmond, C., Clair, S., Shin, C., Greenberg, M., & Feinberg, M. (2011). Preventing substance misuse through community-university partnerships: Randomized controlled trial outcomes 4 1/2 years past baseline. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40, 440–447.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. StataCorp. (2011). Stata Statistical Software: Release 12. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.Google Scholar
  46. Stormshak, E. A., & Dishion, T. J. (2009). A school-based family-centered intervention to prevent substance abuse: The Family Check-Up. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 35, 227–232.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Turrisi, R., & Ray, A. E. (2010). Sustained parenting and college drinking in first-year students. Developmental Psychobiology, 52, 286–294.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Turrisi, R., Wiersma, K. A., & Hughes, K. K. (2000). Binge-drinking-related consequences in college students: Role of drinking beliefs and mother–teen communications. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14, 342–355.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Turrisi, R., Larimer, M. E., Mallett, K. A., Kilmer, J. R., Ray, A. E., Mastroleo, N. R., et al. (2009). A randomized clinical trial evaluating a combined alcohol intervention for high-risk college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70, 555–567.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Turrisi, R., Abar, C., Mallett, K. A., & Jaccard, J. (2010). An examination of the mediational effects of cognitive and attitudinal factors of a parent intervention to reduce college drinking. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 2500–2526.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Turrisi, R., Mallett, K. A., Cleveland, M. J., Varvil-Weld, L., Abar, C., Scaglione, N., & Hultgren, B. (2013). Evaluation of timing and dosage of a parent based intervention to minimize college students' alcohol consumption. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74, 30–40.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Van der Vorst, H., Engels, R. C. M. E., Meeus, W., & Dekovic, M. (2006). The impact of alcohol-specific rules, parental norms about early drinking and parental alcohol use on adolescents' drinking behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 1299–1306.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Van der Vorst, H., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Burk, W. J. (2010). Do parents and best friends influence the normative increase in adolescents' alcohol use at home and outside the home? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71, 105–114.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Varvil-Weld, L., Mallett, K., Turrisi, R., & Abar, C. (2012). Using parent profiles to predict membership in a subset of college students experiencing excessive alcohol consequences: Findings from a longitudinal study. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73, 434–443.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Varvil-Weld, L., Turrisi, R., Scaglione, N., Mallett, K. A., & Ray, A. E. (2013). Parents' and students' reports of parenting: Which are more reliably associated with college student drinking? Addictive Behaviors, 38, 1699–1703.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Walls, T. A., Fairlie, A. M., & Wood, M. D. (2009). Parents do matter: A longitudinal two-part mixed model of early college alcohol participation and intensity. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70, 908–918.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Weitzman, E. R., Nelson, T. F., & Wechsler, H. (2003). Taking up binge drinking in college: The influences of person, social group, and environment. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 26–35.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. White, H. R., Johnson, V., & Buyske, S. (2000). Parental modeling and parenting behavior effects on offspring alcohol and cigarette use: A growth curve analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse, 12, 287–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Windle, M. (2000). Parental, sibling and peer influences on adolescent substance use and alcohol problems. Applied Developmental Science, 4, 98–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wood, M. D., Read, J. P., Mitchell, R. E., & Brand, N. H. (2004). Do parents still matter? Parent and peer influences on alcohol involvement among recent high school graduates. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18, 19–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Varvil-Weld
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • D. Max Crowley
    • 2
  • Rob Turrisi
    • 1
  • Mark T. Greenberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kimberly A. Mallett
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biobehavioral Health and Prevention Research CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Center for Child & Family PolicyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Prevention Research CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations