The viewing of films that are R-rated or restricted, based on mature content not suitable for children under 17, increases alcohol use amongst tweens and teens, claims a new study published in the May edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (JSAD).

The R-rating is supposed to be a warning to parents that a film includes language, violence, drug use and sexually explicit behavior. However the researchers from Dartmouth College surveyed "3,600 middle-school children from fifteen northern schools in New England" with a follow-up survey between 13-36 months later and found parents are not heeding the warnings.

Each student was asked, "Have you ever had beer, wine, or other drink with alcohol that your parents didn't know about?" and "How often do your parents allow you to watch movies that are rated R?"

The results showed the "3 percent of the kids who said their parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies said they had started drinking alcohol, compared with 19 percent of those who were sometimes allowed to watch R-rated movies and 25 percent of those who said they were allowed to watch such movies ‘all the time'."

James D. Sargent, MD, co-author of the study and a professor of pediatrics and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, explained "we think this is a very important aspect of parenting, and one that is often overlooked.

"The research to date suggests that keeping kids from R-rated movies can help keep them from drinking, smoking and doing a lot of other things that parents don't want them to do."

Sargent continued, "We think seeing the adult content actually changes their personality."

Full study, "Parental R-Rated Movie Restriction and Early-Onset Alcohol Use":