Although parents have an important influence on drinking among students during their first year of college, there is limited research addressing whether parenting later in college has a similar effect. Researchers followed 1,429 students at three large public universities to examine the associations between parents’ permissiveness toward alcohol use and monitoring of students’ behavior and students’ drinking outcomes. Students completed surveys during the fall semesters of their first and fourth years of college. The study used a structural equation model, a form of causal modeling, to examine associations between parental permissiveness of college student alcohol use, parental monitoring of students’ behavior and students’ drinking and alcohol-related consequences at the two time points, controlling for parental modeling of risky drinking, peer norms, sex, and campus.

The results showed that greater parental permissiveness was associated with more drinking at both time points, an effect that indirectly increased students’ alcohol-related adverse consequences at both time points. Parental permissiveness was not associated with monitoring of student behavior during the fourth year of college and monitoring of student behavior was associated with student drinking during the first year, but not the fourth year of college.

The researchers concluded that parents who express low permissiveness toward student drinking may help to reduce risky drinking even as students turn 21.