Teenagers’ decision to have a first alcoholic drink may be influenced by their best friends, a new study suggests. Researchers found having friends who drink and who have access to alcohol is the most important factor in predicting when a teen starts drinking.
The influence of best friends was stronger than a teen’s own history of troubled behavior or family history of alcoholism, the study found.
“When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don’t get their first drinks from their family,” researcher Samuel Kuperman of the University of Iowa said in a statement.“They get their first drinks from their friends. They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it’s easier for them to have that first drink.”
The nationwide study included 820 teens ages 14 to 17. Less than half of the participants had an alcohol-dependent parent. The researchers found among teens who reported trying alcohol, almost four in 10 said their best friends also drank. Kuperman told Live Science that having most of one’s best friends drink doubles a teenager’s risk for having a first whole drink.
The researchers note that starting to drink before age 15 increases the risk of alcohol abuse. The findings appear in the journal, Pediatrics.
TV Liquor Ads May Promote Drinking in Young Teens,
Young teens appear to be susceptible to the persuasive messages in television alcohol ads, a new study suggests. The ads influence some young teens to drink more and experience drinking-related problems later in adolescence, the researchers found.
The study found beer and liquor ads can promote drinking as early as seventh grade, Health Day reports. The more exposure to ads the teens had, and the more they enjoyed watching them, the more alcohol they drank by 10th grade. Early drinking is associated with alcohol-related problems such as fighting or academic decline by 10th grade, the researchers note.
“This study provides evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising in seventh grade and liking those alcohol advertisements on television is associated with higher levels of drinking in the eighth and ninth grades,” lead researcher Jerry Grenard of Claremont Graduate University in California told Health Day. “Parents and schools should teach children about the design of persuasive messages in the media to help them avoid undue influence by the media on their behaviors.”
The study included almost 4,000 seventh graders, who were asked about their alcohol use, and exposure to liquor advertising. The researchers followed the students through 10th grade.