OBJECTIVE: The association between the alcohol use of parents and their offspring is well established. However, little is known about the factors underlying, or mediating, this link. This study investigated whether drinking motives mediate the link between the drinking habits of parents and the frequency of their adolescent children's alcohol consumption and drunkenness. METHOD: A nationally representative sample of 1,854 13- to 15-year-old students in Switzerland who drink alcohol was analyzed. Structural equation modeling was used to test mediation. RESULTS: As soon as drinking motives were included in the model, the previously significant link between the drinking habits of parents and the frequency of their adolescent children's alcohol consumption was reduced and was no longer significant for drunkenness. Thus, parents' drinking habits indirectly affected adolescent alcohol use via drinking motives, in terms of both the frequency of alcohol consumption and drunkenness. In particular, social, enhancement, and coping motives were prominent mediators in the link between parental drinking and adolescent alcohol consumption, whereas coping and enhancement motives played a key role in the link between parental drinking and adolescent drunkenness. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that drinking habits of parents are not responsible for the widely reported link between the alcohol use of parents and their offspring, per se. Rather, results suggest that parental drinking shapes the drinking motives of adolescent children, which, in turn, influences adolescent alcohol use.