Why Do Minors Drink?

Underage drinking is a serious public health concern that may be curbed by community

(RxWiki News) It’s no surprise when a study comes out and says teenagers who hang out with troublemakers are more likely to drink. But what makes some teens less likely to drink?

A recent study surveyed 8th and 10th grade teens from all over the US about their drinking habits and their lives at home and in their communities. The study’s findings showed that teenagers were more likely to drink if they or their friends had little regard for their community, but were less likely to drink if they lived in a protective community.

"Talk to your kids about underage drinking."

Damon Jones, PhD, research assistant professor in the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues worked with a team to investigate teen drinking.

In the study background, authors said, “By the end of high school, more than 75 percent of youths have consumed alcohol, and each year underage drinking results in 5,000 deaths of those younger than 21 years.”

For the study, 203,504 boys and girls from 8th and 10th grade classes across the US filled out surveys between 1998 and 2008 regarding their drinking habits, community and family lives and peer groups.

Participants were split into four groups: 8th grade girls, 8th grade boys, 10th grade girls and 10th grade boys. Survey questions were grouped into seven categories: antisocial peers, family risk, antisocial attitudes, community protection, family protection, school protection and antisocial behavior.

Antisocial refers to not caring about how something affects other people in society. Antisocial behavior includes, but is not limited to, vandalism, aggression, violence and substance abuse.

Results of the study showed participants who had consumed alcohol within the past 30 days were:

  • Three to five times more likely to have antisocial peers, especially among girls
  • Two to four times more likely to have family risk
  • Four to six times more likely to have antisocial attitudes
  • Three to four times more likely to demonstrate antisocial behavior

Those least likely to have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days were in the community protection group, regardless of age or gender.

Dr. Jones said, “We found that when you put all of the major risk and protective factors into the same predictive model, certain risk factors, such as antisocial peer risk, tended to be more highly predictive of alcohol use than other factors like positive school experiences.”

The author's conclusion, based on their findings, suggested living in a caring community could help curb teenage drinking, whereas associating with antisocial friends encourages teenage drinking. The authors hope this information can help shape the future of prevention and intervention programs, as well as policies for underage drinking.

This study was published in November in the American Journal of Public Health.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse provided funding for the study. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2013