What drives alcohol consumption in teenagers?

Parents nowadays have a difficult job keeping their children out of trouble, and increasingly it seems that more and more so-called ‘legal highs’ are becoming available to teenagers through their peer groups.

Trying to teach children about drug and alcohol use is a minefield, so it can be helpful to understand the impact that external influences can have on the choices made by adolescents.

alcohol consumption in teenagers

A study of alcohol consumption in teenagers with 454 alcohol-using Dutch adolescents aged 13-16 years reveals something of the relative contribution that peer pressure in social situations may have on teens’ drinking motives.

Using questionnaires including the Drinking Motive Questionnaire-revised and surveys collating total weekly alcohol consumption and frequency of heavy drinking episodes, researchers were able to match alcohol consumption with drinking motives, and found that increases in total weekly alcohol consumption and episodes of heavy drinking were driven only by social motives.

Interestingly, motives for drinking alcohol remained  relatively stable over time, and were not driven by enhancement or coping motives resulting from previous alcohol consumption.

This finding is in line with a previous report from Switzerland, where it was revealed that most young people reported social motives for drinking, some cited enhancement motives, and only a few participants reported coping motives.

The authors of the study note that parents and other key members of the social group play an active role in restricting access to alcohol and monitoring adolescents’ alcohol consumption.

Of course, it is important to also remember that drinking cultures differ significantly between different countries, with many external factors having an impact on future motivation to drink alcohol, such as observed parental consumption of and attitudes towards alcohol.

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