Kids' DUI Risk Rises If Parents Drink at Home

teens with cups of beer
Having both parents and friends who drink alcohol resulted in the highest risk factor for future drinking and driving, the study showed. (Image credit: Katseyephoto | Dreamstime)

Teens with parents who drink even an occasional glass of wine at home are more likely than others to drink and drive as adults, a new study shows.

Researchers found that about 6 percent of teens whose parents drank even sporadically later reported driving under the influence at age 21, compared with just 2 percent of those whose parents did not drink.

"The home is a really important source for these kids," study researcher Mildred Maldonado-Molina of the University of Florida's College of Medicine said in a statement. "[Parents] may not perceive their drinking as negative, but it influences what is acceptable behavior."

The data was based on the responses from 9,559 adolescents who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health Waves I (from 1994–1995) and Wave III (2001–2002), as well as responses to a parent survey.

The study also focused on the influential role that peers' behavior has on driving under the influence. Having friends who drink alcohol was a risk factor for driving under the influence — particularly for kids whose parents did not drink. However, if a teen's parents were even occasional drinkers, what their peers did had less of an impact, Maldonado-Molina said.

Having both parents and friends who drink alcohol resulted in the highest risk factor for future drinking and driving, with about 11 percent of those teens reporting that they drove under the influence when they reached their 20s.

The researchers found no significant difference in risk factors between the men and women.

"The main idea is that parents' alcohol use has an effect on their kids' behavior," Maldonado-Molina said. "It's important for parents to know that their behavior has an effect not only at that developmental age when their kids are adolescents, but also on their future behavior as young adults."

To help prevent future "driving under the influence" occurrences, the researchers suggest that parents begin discussing these dangers with their children before age 15 so that they are fully aware of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Parents should also consider how their own drinking habits may influence their children's decisions later in life.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience  and on Facebook.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.