Parental Restriction of Movie Viewing Prospectively Predicts Adolescent Alcohol and Marijuana Initiation: Implications for Media Literacy Programs

Prev Sci. 2018 Oct;19(7):914-926. doi: 10.1007/s11121-018-0891-8.


Youth are heavy consumers of media, and exposure to mature media content is associated with initiation and progression of substance use. Parental restriction of such content has been shown to be an effective mechanism to reduce negative consequences attributed to exposure to mature media content. This study assessed the influence of parental restriction of movie watching across Motion Picture Association of America rating categories on subsequent alcohol and marijuana initiation at 1- and 2-year follow-up. Using data from a longitudinal study of adolescent substance use (N = 1023), we used logistic regression analyses to determine the odds of alcohol and marijuana initiation across movie rating categories, within R-rated restriction categories in particular, and based on changes in parental restriction of movies over time. All analyses controlled for important parental, personality, and behavioral correlates of adolescent substance use. Results suggest that restriction of R-rated movies is protective of both alcohol and marijuana initiation. Important differences among parental restriction of R-rated movie categories emerged such that being allowed to watch them with adult supervision was protective of substance use, while those who reported watching R-rated films despite parental restrictions were at heightened risk for alcohol initiation. Changes in parental movie restrictions were not predictive of substance use initiation over the subsequent year. Implications of these findings for media literacy program prevention strategies are discussed.

Keywords: Adolescent alcohol initiation; Adolescent marijuana initiation; Media parenting; Parental restriction of movies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / prevention & control*
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Parents*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors