According to a federal study released in 2008, a staggering 40% of underage drinkers obtain their alcohol from adults – sometimes their own parents. This amounts to an approximate 11 million American youth who say they get their alcohol for free from someone over the age of 21.
While alcohol remains a socially acceptable activity more
so than street drug abuse, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stand firmly on their position that underage drinking is a serious public health issue.
Nearly 5,000 deaths occur annually as a direct result of illegal alcohol consumption by minors. How are teens obtaining alcohol, and what can we do to reduce this trend?
Survey Says Adults are a Top Source for Teens’ Alcohol
In a large-scale analysis of over 20,000 American teens and young adults, participants were asked by researchers questions in an attempt to answer some of the most important questions about youth alcohol consumption, including:
- Where teens get alcohol from, or from whom
- The social activities which surround alcohol use
- The prevalence of drinking–how often, and how much?
4 out of 10 youth said they got their alcohol from someone over the age of 21, and only 3 out 10 of said they paid for alcohol the last time they drank (further concluding that females were more likely to obtain free alcohol than males.) Study authors also reported that the youth who paid for their own alcohol tended to drink more heavily.
Last, 1 in 16 of the kids surveyed said they had drank in the past 30 days and that their parents supplied the alcohol.
Reducing Underage Drinking
As parents, the prevention and reduction of alcohol consumption in minors comes as no easy task. Alcohol is more commonly abused than street drugs, yet in many aspects is equally as dangerous. What can we do as parents to slow the trend of risky underage drinking?
Encourage Alcohol and Drug Education
The task of substance abuse education largely falls on our public teaching system, yet what parents may not realize is that proper anti-drug and alcohol education begins in the home. Discuss in your household the risks that are tied to drinking alcohol, and ensure clear boundaries are set on the subject.
Set a Good Example
Children look to their parents, peers, siblings and friends for examples of conduct. Simply setting a positive example by not drinking excessively, if at all, can produce a tremendous ripple effect on the way youth choose to behave as a result.
Though it is easy to tell youth they can’t drink simply due to the sheer unlawfulness of it, one cannot deny that teenagers grow up. Youth quickly become adults, able to make their own decisions about drinking without the barriers of law. In their under-21 years, encourage your children and teenagers to think for themselves. Instead of flatly barring drinking, ask them to think of reasons why it is unsafe, or examples which support why it makes sense that underage drinking is regulated by law. In this way, a parent might cultivate integrity and personal logic rather than merely enforce rules for the sake of rules.
Underage Drinking Statistics
Listed here are just a few key statistical snapshots from recent studies on the subject of underage drinking.
- Roughly 30% of Americans under the age of 21 admit to regular drinking (within the past 30 days.)
- Underage drinking has remained a constant and steady problem over the past decade, whereas certain aspects of illicit youth drug abuse have been seen to decline.
- Youth are reportedly more likely to consume alcohol while in someone else’s household (not their own home.)
- About half of parents (54% of mothers and 47% of fathers) are aware of their children’s drinking tendencies.
Sources: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/news/20080626/underage-drinkers-adults-supply-alcohol http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm