Main Body

Ch. 2: Alcohol Initiation Before and During Adolescence

The second reading discusses evidence related to the factors associated with adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking. You should recall the evidence from early in our course indicating that the probability of developing an alcohol use disorder is highest when drinking begins early in life. The probability of experiencing alcohol dependence during a person’s lifetime is four time greater if drinking began before age 15 years, compared to individuals whose drinking is delayed to age 21 years; the probability is reduced by 14 percent with each increasing year of age at first use (Windle & Zucker, date unknown). Evidence also indicates that alcohol exposure during the developmental period of brain remodeling (associated with puberty) leaves individuals more vulnerable to long-term behavioral health problems that include, but are not limited to, substance use disorders—especially if drinking begins before age 11 (Guttmannova et al., 2011).

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) survey results from 2015 show past-year alcohol use initiation occurred among an estimated 9.5% of 12-17 year olds, almost one in ten adolescents (SAMHSA, 2017). Another piece of evidence making this an important topic is a recent article by Jackson, Barnett, Colby, & Rogers (2017) indicating that children who have even been sipping alcohol (often with parental consent) by the 6th grade have a significantly greater odds of drinking full drinks, getting drunk, and drinking heavily by the time they are in 9th grade. In other words, according to the study’s authors, early sipping is not the protective factor that many parents believe it to be; “offering even just a sip of alcohol may undermine messages about the unacceptability of alcohol consumption for youth” (p. 212).

The piece assigned for you to read in this chapter also has relevance to our Module 6 discussions about what makes sense in planning for the prevention of alcohol use disorders. The assigned piece is Patrick, M.E., & Schulenberg, J.E. (2013). Prevalence and predictors of adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking in the United States. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 35(2), 193-200.

In this chapter you will read brief entries about:

  • recent results and trends from the Monitoring the Future study
  • the influence of parents, peers, school, work, religiosity and community attachment and the difference between exercise versus sports participation on adolescents’ use of alcohol
  • risk-taking and sensation seeking
  • drinking attitudes and reasons for using alcohol
  • long-term consequences of alcohol use
  • implications for prevention and intervention, and
  • key terms related to alcohol use, alcohol misuse, and alcohol use disorders.
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Click here for a link to our Carmen course where you can locate the assigned pdf file(s) for this chapter. You will need to be logged into our Carmen course, select Module 8, and proceed to the Coursework area. Under the Readings heading you will find a box with links to the readings for relevant coursebook chapters. Don’t forget to return here in your coursebook to complete the remaining chapters and interactive activities.

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SWK 3805: Alcohol by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.