According to a London study published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, upper and middle-class teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol than those from families of lesser means. This may come as a surprise to some parents, as many believe that wealth, education and family structure can shield teenagers from the temptation of alcohol. However, researchers have found that this is not true, and that parents who believe they are taking the mystery out of alcohol by allowing their kids to drink alcohol at home aren’t helping the situation.
Researchers explain that the best way to prevent alcohol abuse among teenagers is to have honest discussions with them about responsible drinking habits and the dangers that ensues when too much alcohol is consumed. These conversations will allow young people to hear the information from their parents rather than other children, who are likely not passing along accurate data. Sitting down to talk to children and teenagers about alcohol also allows them to ask questions about drinking and possibly open to conversation up to other concerns like peer pressure or ways to abstain from drugs.
Researchers caution that another danger presented to young people who abuse alcohol is brain development. “Young people’s brains are still developing, and they may be more vulnerable to long-term effects on brain and educational achievement than adults even if they drink within government-recommended upper limits for adults,” explained Dr. Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser for an alcohol awareness charity called Drinkaware.
It is unclear why middle to upper class teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol, but some suspect it is because they witness parents and older family members drinking on a more frequent basis. The information gathered by Drinkaware also shows that white teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol than black teenagers. More than 70% of white middle to upper class teenagers had consumed alcohol, while only 30% of black middle to upper class teenagers have consumed alcohol.
Despite this research being gathered in the UK, experts have noticed the same patterns here in the United States as well. It shows that prevention programs must design curriculum that targets various gender, racial ad socio-economic categories to have the greatest impact across the full spectrum of teens.