Professor Teams Up with MADD to Fight Underage Drinking

October 22, 2010

Penn State researcher Dr. 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.

image of MADD Handbook Cover

MADD adapted a handbook that Turrisi uses in his alcohol prevention interventions. The handbook is available at www.thepowerofparents.org.

MADD adapted a handbook that Turrisi created, which is based on his alcohol prevention research that has taken place over the last twenty 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,” says 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,” says 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,” says 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.”

In addition to providing the expertise and the evidence-based research to inform the handbook, Turrisi joined Laura Dean Mooney, national president of MADD, and Bill Windsor, associate vice president of safety for Nationwide Insurance, on a radio tour on October 27, 2009. The trio spoke on a number of nationally syndicated or regional news stations across the country, promoting awareness of underage drinking and the new MADD campaign.

“The beauty of MADD is that they’ve historically proven to be one of the most successful grassroots organizations in our country. If we’re aware of the dangers of drunk driving, it’s because of MADD’s efforts,” says Turrisi. “This campaign is no exception. MADD has teamed up with the scientific community to help families and make a difference in kids’ lives. It’s an honor that we at Penn State have the opportunity to partner with them and have a national impact.”

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Editors: Rob Turrisi can be reached at rjt13@psu.edu. For additional information, contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.