Middle and high school students who drink
alcohol are often the same ones winning the popularity contests, new
Previous studies have found friend groups
can influence choices about alcohol, but haven't looked at the possible social
payoffs of drinking.
The study team, which was led by Mir M.
Ali, also from SAMHSA analysed data from a national study of 7th through 12th
graders from 132 schools who were surveyed in 1994. The survey included a
variety of questions on drinking and substance use, number of friends, friends
of friends, home life and other factors.
adverts may drive kids to drink
Teens who reported occasional drinking and
getting drunk tended to have higher "social connectedness" than their
abstaining peers. That was especially true for white students.
Motivation behind adolescent drinking
Getting drunk seemed to be more important
for popularity than just drinking in general. Kids who drank at all reported
having an extra half a friend, on average, and those who got drunk reported one
additional friend compared to non-drinkers.
The findings "provide new evidence on
the motivation behind adolescent
drinking," the researchers wrote in the journal Addictive Behaviours."There
are many healthy behaviours, both athletic and academic, that increase teens'
popularity among peers," Delany said.
For instance, two of the study's authors
found in an earlier paper, published in the Journal of Public Health, that
playing sports leads to more friends for overweight white boys.
Family, peers, schools and neighbourhoods
can all influence teen drinking and may also indirectly influence how much
popularity teens gain by drinking, Delany said. "We know that parental
influence can help adolescents resist drinking and other forms of substance
use," he said.
"Recent SAMHSA reports have shown that
adolescents are very influenced by their parents' attitudes on substance
use." Teens need adult help to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol
and to have positive social values, Joseph P. Allen said.
influence teen drinking
Allen studies adolescent social development
at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He was not part of the new
research."Adults often avoid teens like the plague, but then we're
surprised when, left to their own devices, they develop values with which we're
not comfortable," Allen said.
"If we don't engage with teens – by
getting them involved in volunteer service, encouraging their participation in
civic activities and debates and just talking to them – then we can't be too
surprised when their values are largely those that appear in the online and
Greater social involvement
"The link between drinking and having
friends is not only an issue for the underage, researchers noted. "One of
the toughest problems with teen alcohol use is that alcohol use is associated
with greater social involvement, and likely popularity, even in
adulthood," Allen said.
do parents give their kids booze?
"Teens are often just trying to do
what they see adults doing, and it's hard to convince them it's a terrible
thing when they see both social and work-life events where alcohol plays a
prominent role," he said. "Our best chance is likely to give teens
ways to feel like they are moving into the adult world that don't revolve just
around alcohol," he said.
Parents can consult resources like SAMHSA's
"Navigating the Teen Years: A Parent's Handbook for Raising Healthy
Teens", Delany said. The handbook is available here:
of surveyed kids drink alcohol
in movies influence teens to do the same
parents = alcoholic children