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Background Reductions in underage drinking will only come about from changes in the social and cultural environment. Despite decades of messages discouraging parental supply, parents perceive social norms supportive of allowing children to consume alcohol in ‘safe’ environments. Methods Twelve focus groups conducted in a regional community in NSW, Australia; four with parents of teenagers (n = 27; 70 % female) and eight with adolescents (n = 47; 55 % female). Participants were recruited using local media. Groups explored knowledge and attitudes and around alcohol consumption by, and parental supply of alcohol to, underage teenagers; and discussed materials from previous campaigns targeting adolescents and parents. Results Parents and adolescents perceived teen drinking to be a common behaviour within the community, but applied moral judgements to these behaviours. Younger adolescents expressed more negative views of teen drinkers and parents who supply alcohol than older adolescents. Adolescents and parents perceived those who ‘provide alcohol’ (other families) as bad parents, and those who ‘teach responsible drinking’ (themselves) as good people. Both groups expressed a preference for high-fear, victim-blaming messages that targeted ‘those people’ whose behaviours are problematic. Conclusions In developing and testing interventions to address underage drinking, it is essential to ensure the target audience perceive themselves to be the target audience. If we do not have a shared understanding of underage ‘drinking’ and parental ‘provision’, such messages will continue to be perceived by parents who are trying to do the ‘right’ thing as targeting a different behaviour and tacitly supporting their decision to provide their children with alcohol.


Centre for Health and Social Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access