Positive Parenting: Teen drinking and the role of peers

Scientists are learning that being around others may impact the way young people react to alcohol.
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 8:09 AM EST
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Philadelphia, Pa. (WILX) - You may have talked with your teen about alcohol, but here are some sobering statistics: by age 15, about 30 percent of teens have had at least one drink. And by age 18, 58 percent have had an alcoholic beverage. New research in young adults is shedding light on how peers affect outcomes.

For teens and young adults, drinking alcohol is an age-old and often risky pastime. Now scientists are learning that being around others may impact the way young people react to alcohol. Researchers studied 49 participants between ages 21 and 25. They measured brain functions with two tests --- one that assessed risk-taking and one that measured impulse control.

The young adults were given drinks that they were told may contain alcohol. They were also informed that someone their age may be observing them. Results revealed that the intoxicated participants were more likely to take risks on the tests and had less impulse control when they were observed by their peers. The young people also showed differences in brain activity and displayed less impulse control on the tests. The findings suggest that parents should be persistent in communicating with their teens about the dangers of alcohol consumption and risky behaviors.

Studies show that early drinking is a risk factor for alcohol use disorders. Adults who took their first drink of alcohol before age 15 were six-point-five-times more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder than those who didn’t start drinking before age 21.

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