Restricting Access to R-Rated Movies May Discourage Underage Drinking

A new study links R-rated movies to adolescent drinking, suggesting that parents shouldn’t allow their underage children to watch R-rated movies. Researchers studied nearly 3,600 middle-school children in New England, and found that among those whose parents didn’t allow them to watch R-rated movies, few started drinking over the next few years.

When questioned 13 to 26 months after the survey, three percent said they had started drinking, compared with 19 percent of their peers who said their parents “sometimes” allow them to see R-rated films, and 25 percent of students whose parents always allowed them to watch such movies.

The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, highlights the importance of parents monitoring what their children are exposed to, according to Dr. James D. Sargent, professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The study builds on previous evidence linking children’s exposure to R-rates movies to early drinking, smoking, and having sex or behaving violently. Dr. Sargent said this suggests that preventing kids from watching movies with adult content can help them make better choices as they get older.

Sargent noted that some could argue that parents who keep their kids from watching R-rated movies might be more careful in general, such as keeping a more careful eye on their children’s friends and activities. But Sargent and his colleagues say they asked the participants questions to gauge “authoritative parenting,” which helps gauge the child’s perception of their parents’ responsiveness and ability to set and enforce limits.

Even considering these factors, exposure to R-rated movies was still linked to earlier drinking. Almost all (90%) of R-rated movies depict drinking, which may be one reason that younger children who see the films are more vulnerable to drinking at a younger age. Sargent said that other research suggests that children who see R-rated movies may become more prone to taking risks and sensation-seeking, which could mean that the adult content changes their personality.

Sargent said that parents should keep their kids from seeing R-rated films, but also remember that some PG-13 movies and many television shows often portray drinking and other adult situations.

Source: Science Daily, Keeping Kids Away from R-Rated Movies May Prevent Early Drinking, April 26, 2010.

Posted on April 25th, 2010

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