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Study Sheds Light on Complexity of Teen Drinking

By Mason Spirit contributor on October 24, 2011

The reasons why some teenagers drink alcohol goes well beyond simple peer pressure, say Mason researchers.

In the study Understanding Teen Drinking Cultures in America, David Anderson, director of Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Public Health, and Mason anthropology professor Hugh Gusterson set out to develop strategies to reduce the rate of teen alcohol consumption.

Through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, they found that teens typically begin drinking in high school and view the experience as an important rite of passage to adulthood. Many teens also acknowledged that relieving stress was one of the leading reasons they drink and that peer pressure was not always a contributing factor for drinking.

In addition, the study shows that teens reported consuming the most alcohol at parties. It also shows that many teens are not aware of the effect of large amounts of alcohol on their bodies. They also don’t realize the many legal and social consequences that come with drinking alcohol.

Based on the results of the study, the researchers developed a set of recommendations and strategies to help parents and community leaders. Some of these include

  • Creating community-wide strategies and developing long-term initiatives that include parent education
  • Providing a range of extracurricular activities so that youth have other outlets of feeling connected rather than hanging out and drinking
  • Establishing opportunities for teens to talk frankly and openly about alcohol and other concerns with parents, other teens, or school and community leaders

—Catherine Ferraro

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