Other people’s self-fulfilling prophecies can hurt you, suggests a study on parents’ beliefs and kids’ drinking habits.

While research has shown the power of self-fulfilling prophecies to negatively affect their owner’s behavior, new evidence has underscored just how much they can negatively affect the behavior of others.

American researcher Stephanie Madon and colleagues at Iowa State University in Ames examined the power of negative thinking by studying how the false beliefs of mothers and fathers predict the amount of drinking by their adolescent children over a year.

The researchers examined 115 parents and their seventh-grade children. Parents completed questionnaires measuring their beliefs about their kids’ alcohol use. Their children also filled out questionnaires, assessing their past alcohol use at the beginning of the study and a year later.

Parents’ negative beliefs predicted their children’s alcohol use beyond risk factors, a self-fulfilling prophecy effect that was strongest when both parents overestimated their child’s alcohol use. When both parents underestimated their child’s alcohol use, there appeared to be no such positive synergistic effect.

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