Factors Related To Teen Alcohol Consumption

FactorsRelated To Teen Alcohol Consumption

CarlenaN. Porter

NorfolkState University

UAF611: Urban Problems

Dr. Rudolph Wilson

Alcoholis a drug of choice for many youths in the modern society. As aresult, underage drinking is among the most important social problemsin the 21stcentury.In fact, alcohol is the drug most commonly used and abused byadolescents(CDC,2008).Agood number of young people are faced with the consequences ofunderage drinking or drinking too much. Accordingto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2008), 11%of the alcohol in the United States is consumed by youth aged 12 to19.Alcoholis more dangerous than any other drug because itsuse can lead to dependencies and the use of other drugs. Forteenagers ages 13 to 19, alcohol is the most commonly experimenteddrug (NIAAA 2006). Alcohol is easy to get, easy to use, and it is ascommon as taking a daily aspirin. Drinkingalcoholismore prevalent than smoking or illicit drug use among teenagers (OAH2013).

Teenagersdrink for many reasons whether to escape the daily stress of schoolor family life, or to fit in with their friends (NIAAA 2006 &amp OAH2013).The developmental transition state of the youths and the increasedindependence are some of the most important causes of alcoholismamong the youths. Sadly enough, many teenagers discover too late that drinking cannotsolve any of their problems. Teenage drinking is a widespread publichealth problem that poses many risks for young people today (NIAAA2006).

Alcoholconsumptioninterfereswith teenagers cognitive and emotional development.It alsoincreases the chance of accidental injury and death, and magnifiesthe likelihood of alcohol dependency. Inthe United States alone, it is estimated that over five thousandyoung people below the age of twenty one die annually as a result ofalcohol abuse. Some of these deaths areas a result of car crashes,homicides, suicides and injuries associated with aliholism.In 2001, approximately 1717 college students aged 18-24 died fromalcohol related unintentional injuries, including motor vehiclecrashes.Thatrepresentsan increase of 6% (adjusted for college population growth) over the1575 deaths in 1998 (Kingston et al, 2005). These statistics indicatethat alcohol related deaths have increased faster than the collegepopulation.

Accordingto the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 26% ofadolescents under the age of 19 drank alcoholregularly.In 2009, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 42% of highschool students drank alcohol, 24% engaged in binge drinking, 10%drove after drinking, and 28% rode in a car with a driver who hadbeen drinking. These behaviors pose immediate risks includinginjuries, accidents, physical and sexual assault, and risky sexualand social behavior as well as long term risks,including:poor academic performance, physical health problems, changes inbrain development, dependency and abuse of other substances, andincreased risk for suicide and homicide(OAH2013).

Despitethe substantial evidence oftheprevalenceof alcohol use by teens,the problem of adolescent alcohol use is exacerbated by the dividebetween parental beliefs and attitudes and adolescent drinkingbehavior and attitudes. While 68% of parents believe that most teenstry beer occasionally,63% did not think their own teen had consumedany alcohol. Additionally, parents and adults may view alcohol use asa rite of passage for adolescents. Almost one-third of adolescentsbelievedthat their parents would not mind if they had a beer once in a while.Adolescents also perceive the consumption of alcohol to be less riskythan other substances 45% did not see great risk in dailyconsumption of four to five drinks or more. Only 31% of adolescentsdisapproved of their peers getting drunk, compared to 42% whodisapproved of marijuana use and 65% who disapproved of heroin use.These same adolescents report that beer or other alcoholic beveragesare readily available (62%) and nearly 75% report having friends whodrink alcohol(OAH2013).Many young people perceive benefits to alcohol use, such as improvedparties and celebrations and easier socialization.

The2010NationalSurvey on Drug Use and Health also revealsthat ruraladolescents are more likely to use alcohol than their peers in urbanareas and use is highest among adolescents living in the most remoterural area. Studies suggest that rural youth are more likely thanurban youth to begin drinking at an early age and to engage in bingeand heavy drinking and driving while intoxicated. Rural teens usuallystart to drink around the age of 8 years old because of the family“illegal” backwood stills thatmake and producehomemade alcohol,“moonshine”. For urban teens, drinking usually starts around the age of 15 or 16years(SAMHSA2010). Urbanteen’s alcoholconsumption comes fromwhat is advertised on TV,seen in magazinesor just someone they may look up to. Urban teens prefer to drinkalcohol that they have seen advertised(i.e. beer,Patron(Vodka)or Ciroc(Vodka). Urban teen drink what they see movie stars and music moguls drink oradvertise. Rural teens drink what is around their environment. Inthe urban area, there are a lot of people and influences on theteenagers which alters their normal way of living and behavior. Thereare also a lot of distractions in urban areas due to the rate ofdevelopment in the city. In the rural areas, there are less peoplewith a low life settlement who do not really value their lives due topoverty or ignorance. Here is the highest rate of illiteracy whereteenagers are ignorant of the effect of their actions, therebyincreasing the rate of alcohol intake (SAMHSA2010).

Amongteensaged 12 to17,whites in 2010 were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups toreport current use of alcohol (56.7&nbsppercent). The rateswere42.8&nbsppercent for blacks, 41.8&nbsppercent for Hispanics,38.4&nbsppercent for Asians, and 36.6&nbsppercent for AmericanIndians or Alaska Natives(SAMHSA2010).

Theresearch question sought to be explained is what are the factorsassociated with teen alcohol consumption. It is believed that teenalcohol consumption is related to peer/family influence, geographicallocation and socioeconomic status. These variables are independent orcasual variables of the study. The independent variable ofpeer/family influence, geographical location and socioeconomic statusare believed to explain the dependent variable of the study, which isteen alcohol consumption.

Thestudy of the factors related to teen alcohol consumption is believedto be significant on theoretical and practical grounds according tothe Social Learning Theory, the Social Control Theory, and the Theoryof Planned Behavior. It is expected that the aforementioned theoriesinform and possibly clarify the body of this proposal. Following theIntroduction is the Theoretical Framework, Review of the Literature,Methodology, Conclusions and Recommendations.


Sociologistsconsider alcoholism among teenagers as a social problem. There areseveral theories that can be used to explain alcoholism tendenciesamong the young people. Alcoholconsumption is a conditionthat has many causative agents, and these theories will attempt toexplain how each of these disciplines views alcohol consumption.

SocialLearning Theory

TheSocial Learning Theory asserts that an individual will adopt suchhabits as drug abuse from small informal groups (Akers &amp Sellers,2004). Sociologists have maintained that social interactions areamong the greatest influences in children and adults. The peoplechildren grow with, including siblings, parents, neighbors and closerelatives have an influence on their likelihood of adopting aparticular addictive behavior. Majority of addictive behaviors amongyouths in the modern society required some cooperation. For example,alcohol is a common aspect of social events and venues. Therefore,adolescents acquire perceptions of alcohol from close personal groupsthat they interact with in contrary to the popular belief that theyare formed from mass groups. Family and friends of an adolescent havea greater impact on the outcome of a teenager’s perception ofalcohol than the mass media or other forms of social interaction.Social learning theory is considered to be one of the mostcomprehensive and detailed theory that explain alcoholism tendenciesin youths. Some of the strengths of the theory include the fact thatthe theory accommodates multiple learning models. Although the mainfocus of the theory is the influence of the social environment onbehaviors, it accommodates direct observation and experiences asmeans through which individuals can acquire a particular behavior.Another advantage of the theory is in its flexibility in explainingvariances in learning among youths. For example, the theory explainswhy a child is likely to behave differently while in differentenvironment. Generally, the theory gives a reasonable explanation toinconsistencies in behavior and accounts for the influence ofcognitive theories in explaining alcoholism in youths (Howard &ampKenneth, 1999).

SocialControl Theory

TheSocial Control Theory implies that deviance is in fact conformity.According to social control theorists, just like other undesirablebehaviors among the youths, drug abuse and alcoholism is the absentof social controls that encourage and force the youths to conform tothe social norms. Young people have a strong bonds and ties withtheir parents, mentors, teachers, mainstream persons and socialactivities or institutions. The attachments require the youngindividual to conform to a particular social norm. However, if thesesocial ties are not strong or are broken, the youths will feel freeto deviate from the rules. This means that there is no socialcontrol. This theory emphasizes the role of parental attachment andmonitoring to counter deviance. If an adolescent is close to theparents, he or she will conform to the ideas and opinions that his orher parents hold in order to please them. Hirschi explains that ifthe parents of an adolescent have a negative opinion towards alcohol,then, a teenager is likely to adopt a negative opinion towardsalcohol and vice versa (Hirshi, 1969).

However,it important to note that the social control theory argues thatyouths do not develop alcoholism tendencies because of ties withunconventional cultures or subcultures. Rather, it agues that deviantbehaviors is as a result of weak ties with the mainstream societyleading to nonconformity. This has been noted to be one of theweaknesses of the social control theory. Social control theory isalso silent on the possibility of genetic influence in thedevelopment alcoholism tendencies among teenagers. Nonetheless, thetheory has some advantages and strengths. One of the strengths of thetheory has been the recognition of the critical role of parents andpeers in the development of alcoholism among the youths. The socialinfluence of the modern media, especially the internet can also beeasily incorporated in the theory. Additionally, the theoryrecognizes the fact that individuals have self control and cognitivefactors plays a role in the development of deviant behaviors (Howard&amp Kenneth, 1999).

AlcoholExpectancy Theory

Inan attempt to explain certain behaviors in the society, sociologistshave developed the expectancy theory. The theory proposes a newexplanation to some of the human behaviors in the modern society suchas drug abuse, alcoholism and computer use. The theory argues thatindividuals will chose to act in a particular way because they aremotivated to act that way. The expected result of the action chosenis the motivation to act. The desirability of the outcome in the eyesof the individual will motivate them to act, irrespective of whetherthe act confirms or does not conform to the social norms.Nonetheless, expectancy theorists argue that the foundation of thetheory is the cognitive processes and the ability of the individualto determine the desirability is the outcome. There are a series ofcognitive processes that are involved in the ultimate choice of theaction. The expectancy theory is one of the main theories that havebeen used to explain alcoholism tendencies among teenagers in themodern society (Howard &amp Kenneth, 1999).

TheAlcohol Expectancy Theory also explains alcohol behavior amongteenagers. This theory claims that it is the expected outcome ofalcohol and not the physiological effects of alcohol that determinethe behavior of an intoxicated teenager. According to this theory,teenagers will behave in what they perceive to be the expected mannereven after consuming placebo (Miller, 1990). Bandura identified twoforms of expectancy: efficacy and outcome. He defined efficacyexpectancy as the ability to say ‘no’ to alcohol in situations,where one should not consume it. On the other hand, outcomeexpectancy is the attitude one holds on the effects of alcohol afterconsumption (Bandura, 1986).

Expectanciescreated about alcohol are formed in the formative years of anindividual and through the interaction with the outside world.Expectancies, according to Darkes and Goldman (1989), are channelsthrough which the acquired perspectives on alcohol are released.Social influence conduits, such as peers, family, and role models,have a great impact on the expectancies of a teenager. It is thisexpectancy that acts as a guide to behavior after consuming alcoholand not the documented physiological effects of alcohol (Darkes &ampGoldman, 1993). Leigh (1989) argues that expectancies are a betterindicator of behavioral patterns among adolescents consequently,expectancies are a better indicator in older teenagers than inyounger teenagers. Expectancies are used to forecast the behavior ofadolescents. They claim that teenagers who expected to gain thecourage to socialize after drinking became social drinkers, whilethose, who consumed alcohol due to stress, became problem drinkers(Leigh, 1989). Although it has been criticized because of itsimplicity, the simplistic nature of the alcohol expectancy theory isone of its main strengths.


Thissection of the study will be a comprehensive examination of thescholarly works of other people on the subject of social influenceand teen alcoholism. Many theories are used to study socialinfluence.

Accordingto Friedkin (1998), social influence refers to a change in a person’sbehavior that is as a result of interacting with others. Further heasserts that an individual is influenced by the social group thatthey affiliate or consider themselves to belong. People considered asan authority exert influence over others. Virtually, everyone seeksfor a sense of belonging the youth is the group that mostly desiresto belong to somewhere. Groups have a lot of dimensions, but thecommon component in all groups is that they consider themselves aspeople with shared experiences, loyalties and interests, while at thesame time maintaining individuality (Macionis, Janson and Benoit,2002). In his investigation of the dynamic social impact theory,Latane (1996), views social influence as self-motivated. According tothis theory, peopleare moreinfluenced by those who are close to them than those who are not. Thestructural approach theory views the social influence as a behavioralchange in a group of people who are influenced by interacting withpeople and are considered as significant (Friedkin, 1998).

Socialinfluence can be viewed as a weighted average of influential opinions(Friedkin, 1998). In this theory, humans have an individual opinionon any subject, but as they interact with others, they adopt to someof the opinions of the group from these two ideas, then an Idea ofthe “norm’ is formed. The above theories all define the socialinfluence differently, but they all concur on one aspect: socialinfluence is the modification of behavior that comes from interactingwith others.

Teensare animpressionable groupand seek guidance from, and emulate those whom they consider to bethe role models. Role models are found in families, schools, peergroups and the mass media. The family members are the firstsocialization agents and the source of the first role models. Thecore beliefs of the family are inculcated into the child forming achild’s concept of one-self. Parents have a negligible effect onthe drinking habits of young adults however, the perception ofparents on alcohol in the young adult’s formative years is crucial.Young people will emulate their parents’ drinking habits, such asthe context of use and attitudes regarding the use or misuse ofalcohol (Schulenberg &amp Magg 2002). Parent-child relationships arealso a key factor in influencing in a young person’s attitudetowards alcohol. Children, who were molested, neglected and abused,are likely to abuse alcohol in comparison to their counterparts,who&nbsphaveloving and stable up-bringings.The latent function of school exposes children to the hiddencurriculum, subtle presentations of the world. The peer group is agroup of people with the same interests, social positions and age incommon. In this peer setting, young adults are able to interact witheach other without the supervision of adults. Borsari and Carey(2001) concur that peer influence has two forms: the form ofinvitation to drink, and aping the norms that the peer considersacceptable. The group mostly affected by the peer influence is thatjoining college or the workplace is an effort to fit in. In someinstances, inaccurate information about the number of students whoare drinking leads to a wrong perception among the students.According to Graham, Marks and Hansen (1991), Social influence isessential to adolescent alcohol use. Nonetheless, Graham, Marks andHansen (1991) strongly feel that most researchers fail to delineatethe various forms of social influence. Graham, Marks and Hansen(1991) concurs with Borsari and Carey (2001) that peer influence ispresented in two forms. They also believe that the two forms of peerinfluence can be put into a category of self-judgment.

Inthe book Criminological Theories,the authors theorizethe SocialLearningTheory.The SocialLearningTheoryasserts that an individual will adopt habits such as drug use fromsmall informal groups (Akers &amp Sellers, 2004). Adolescentsacquire perceptions about alcohol from intimate groups that theyinteract with contrary to the popular belief that perceptions onalcohol are formed from mass groups. The authors emphasize thatfamily and friends of an adolescent have a greater impact on theoutcome of a teenager’s perception on alcohol than the mass mediaor other forms of social interaction.

AuthorsSutherland, Akers and Sellers, agree that learning is influenced bythe intensity, frequency, duration and priority of socialinteractions. This means that adolescents will acquire the attitudesof the peoplewith whomthey interact on a regular basis. Friends and family who are oftenaround the teenagers are more likely to emulate the actions of thefamily members, adults in their lives whom they admire as well astheir friends.


Thissegment discusses the methodology that will be used to execute theresearch. The following topics will be covered: testable studyhypotheses, the data collection method, and conceptual andoperational definitions of the variables, and the data analysismethod.

Thegeneral hypothesis of the study is that there is a relationshipbetween the geographical location, socioeconomic location andpeer/family influences are related to teen alcohol consumption inurban and rural areas. The specific or sub-hypotheses of the studyare:

(H1):There is a correlation between geographical location and teen alcoholconsumption.

(H2):There is a correlation between socioeconomic status and teen alcoholconsumption.

(H3):There is a correlation between peer/family influences and teenalcohol consumption.

Thedata needed to test these hypotheses will be derived from secondarydata sources. There is a plethora of data available on the alcoholconsumption among teenagers as it is related to the variables in thisstudy.

Tofurther prove the validity of the variables, the conceptual andoperational definitions will be explained. The use of the term “teenalcohol consumption” is synonymous with “underage drinking”.Underage drinking refers to theconsumption of beverage alcohol, defined as defined as a can orbottle of beer, a glass of wine or a wine cooler, a shot of liquor,or a mixed drink with liquor in it, by persons 20 years of age andyounger.The peer/family influence variable will be categorized for thepurpose of this study as close friends, mother, father, or siblings. The geographic location variable will be categorized as the urban andrural areas. The conceptual definition of socioeconomic status is aneconomic and sociological combined total measure of a person’s workexperience and of an individual’s or family’s economic and socialposition relative to others, based on income, education andoccupation. For the purpose of this study socioeconomic status refersto income. All variables will be operationalized using secondarydata to prove there is a relationship between peer/family influence,socioeconomic status and geographic location and the dependentvariable, teen alcohol consumption.

Thesecondary data will be analyzed using data from the 2011 NationalSurvey of Drug Use and Health. The National Survey of Drug Useconducted a bivariate analysis of the prevalence of alcohol useacross rural and urban areas and the relationship between alcohol useand potential protective or risk factors including family/peerrelations, socioeconomic status and geographic location. Bivariateanalysis can be helpful in testing simple hypothesesof associationand causality&nbsp–checking to what extent it becomes easier to know and predict a valuefor the dependentvariableif we know a case`s value of the independentvariable.Bivariateanalysis involves the analysis of two variables(often denoted as&nbspX,&nbspY),for the purpose of determining the empirical relationship betweenthem. In order to see if the variables are related to one another, itis common to measure how those two variables simultaneously changetogether.

Conclusionsand Recommendations

Teenalcohol consumption is a sensitive issue within our community.&nbspWhen teens abuse alcohol, there is a greater likelihood that theywill experience problems in school, engage in criminal activity, andpartake in dangerous sexual behavior.&nbsp Due to these severeconsequences, it is vital that as a society, we recognize just howprevalent this problem truly is. As suggested earlier, alcohol iswidely available and isaggressivelypromoted throughout our society.&nbsp Alcohol use continues to beregarded by many people, as a normal part of growing&nbspup.&nbspHowever, underage drinking does not only put the drinker at risk, itputs our entire society at risk as well.&nbsp Despite the fact thatit is virtually impossible to put underage alcohol consumptioncompletely to rest, there are definite potential solutions that canhelp prevent teens from engaging in such a precariouslife-threatening act.

Theprevention and reduction of underage drinking must be addressedwithin a developmental framework, which takes into account thedynamic processes of the influence of social systems within a teen’senvironment and the role of individual characteristics in the teen’sdecision to drink.Teens in the urban centers are more likely to indulge in alcoholabuse due to the prevailing environment. Alcohol in the urbanneighborhoods is easily available to the young compared to the ruralareas. The urban culture has a great influence on the youths,especially in relation to drug abuse. Becauseteen development unfolds within many contexts in our society,including family, peers, school, extracurricular and communityactivities, part-time work, the community itself, and the overallculture, every person has a responsibility to help protect teens fromthe potentially adverse consequences of alcohol use.The society has an enormous role in controlling alcohol consumptionamong the teenagers. In the urban society, the consumption of alcoholis associated with pleasant experiences which motivate the youth tostart drinking. Youths especially in urban centers need moreinformation on the negative effects of alcohol abuse. Additionally,increased parental supervision and engaging the youths in otheractivities such as games can reduce alcohol abuse among urban teens.

Ultimately,the results of this study are extremely beneficial to the field ofpublic health and will increase the knowledge regarding teen alcoholconsumption. The secondary research will help understand more aboutpatterns of drinking over time and what significantly impacts suchpatterns will lead to interventions that reduce drinking on withinthe teen population.


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