Professor teams up with MADD to fight underage drinking

Penn State researcher Rob Turrisi is lending a hand to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in a new campaign called "Power of Parents, It’s Your Influence," the goal of which is to prevent underage drinking and drunk driving.

MADD adapted a handbook that Turrisi created, which is based on his alcohol prevention research that has taken place over the last 20 years. The handbook was designed to assist parents in talking to teens about the dangers of alcohol use. It contains communication strategies and tips, information on alcohol and its effects on a teenager’s body and developing brain, and examples to help parents react to tough questions.

“Parents can make a difference in their kids’ lives, but they have to make an effort to continue to do so as their kids get older,” said Turrisi, a professor of biobehavioral health. “A lot of adults feel that their children’s peers are the most critical influence on young adults’ choices, and peers are important. But parents have the opportunity to be more influential than teens by promoting positive values, leading the way by example, and building communication with their child.”

In addition to being a resource available to parents at local MADD offices, the handbook is being taught to select parent teacher association (PTA) groups nationwide. MADD has also posted the handbook online at www.thepowerofparents.org.

“Parents have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. They have to have the confidence to deal with conflict and to put themselves in difficult situations. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is possible,” said Turrisi.

Turrisi’s past research centers on ways to prevent underage drinking. His approach targets parents first, educating them on the dangers of alcohol. Parents are then encouraged to discuss these dangers and their concerns with their children. Turrisi has been refining this approach for over two decades and has developed successful programs that reduce the incidence of alcohol use in adolescents, teens, and young adults.

“We are very excited to have this tool for parents that helps them have a life-saving discussion with their teens about alcohol,” said Vicki Knox, vice president of programs and field relations, MADD National. “Communities struggle with underage drinking and thepowerofparents.org provides a foundation for positive change.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010