Teenage girls whose parents drink alcohol regularly are (more) at risk of drinking alcohol themselves according to a study from Griffith University.

Researchers from the Griffith Criminology Institute and the Australian Institute of Family Studies examined how strongly mother’s and father’s frequency of heavy drinking were linked to early adolescent drinking and whether these links differed according to adolescent gender.

The study sample included 2800 14 and 15-year-olds in two-parent households from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

The outcome measure was having had an alcoholic drink in the past year. Mothers and fathers self-reported their frequency of heavy episodic drinking (having five or more drinks in a session).

Study author Dr Jacqui Homel says while prior research shows parent drinking is associated with an increased likelihood of adolescent drinking, little is understood about the effect of parent and adolescent gender.

“We found girls were more vulnerable to fathers’ drinking than boys,’’ she said.

Mother’s and father’s drinking was associated with adolescent drinking for both boys and girls, but the relationship between father’s drinking and adolescent girls’ drinking was stronger.

“In two-parent households, the association between fathers’ heavy episodic drinking and adolescent drinking was stronger for girls.

“Relationships with fathers may also be important as girls develop perceptions about relationships with males, and girls with heavy drinking fathers may therefore be more tolerant of heavy drinking in male friends.”

Dr Homel says this is consistent with some past research showing the effects of parental drinking as stronger for adolescent girls, and also with studies suggesting girls’ adjustment can be poorer than boys in relation to family discord and stress.

“These variations should be considered in the design and evaluation of family-based interventions to prevent adolescent drinking.”

The study has been published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse