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Can 'helicopter parenting' lead to college drinking?

When kids have a problem with alcohol, whether it's a habit of drinking to excess or a DUI arrest, parents often ask themselves if they're to blame. At the very least, they wonder if they could have done something to prevent it.

Some research has pointed to helicopter parenting as a cause of binge drinking in teens and college-age kids. "Helicopter parents" are known for being excessively protective of their kids, hovering over them and wanting to know what they're doing at all times.

One article in The Atlantic a few years ago argued that in an effort to keep their kids from drinking in unsupervised environments, some helicopter parents will allow them to drink at home where they can keep an eye on them – "allowing teens to get hammered in the comfort and safety of the rec room."

However, when kids who already have a habit of drinking -- whether in their homes with their parents' permission or elsewhere -- "the college environment can exacerbate the problem." That's according to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Some kids are more likely to binge drink in college than others. The author of The Atlantic article said that white, more affluent kids who don't have to work to put themselves through school and who are involved in fraternities, sororities and/or sports are more likely to get caught up in the "party culture" on campus.

Even if they aren't part of one of these groups, college kids -- particularly freshmen -- drink because it makes them comfortable in social settings where they may not know anyone well or feel they fit in. Many college kids are serious about their drinking. One study found that over three-quarters of college freshmen "drink to get drunk" -- some to the point of blackout.

So what can parents do to prevent their kids from dangerous drinking when they aren't around. The website collegedrinkingprevention.gov encourages parents to talk with their kids about drinking. According to the site, "It is important to discuss the consequences without overstating the case."

One of those consequences is being arrested for DUI. Even a first-time DUI can have serious consequences for your child's education, scholarships and ability to get a job after college in the profession of their choice. That's why if your child is facing DUI charges, it's essential to seek legal guidance.

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