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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012 Jan;73(1):71-9.

Investigating associations between perceived parental alcohol-related messages and college student drinking.

Author information

  • 1Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA. caitlin_abar@brown.edu



A debate remains regarding whether parents should teach their children harm-reduction tips for using alcohol while in college or whether they should maintain a zero-tolerance policy. Which type of alcohol-related communication parents should endorse is not empirically clear. The current study made use of a longitudinal measurement-burst design to examine this issue.


The sample consisted of 585 second-year students from a large university in the northeastern United States. Participants completed a baseline survey and 14 daily web-based surveys. Students were assessed for perceptions of parental alcohol-related messages and their own alcohol use. Multilevel models were estimated using HLM 6.04.


The data indicate that zero-tolerance messages appeared most protective against alcohol use and consequences. Harm-reduction messages were most risky, even when compared with mixed messages or the absence of a message.


Findings indicate that a zero-tolerance approach was associated with safer outcomes than other messages, even if students were already using alcohol.

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