A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Teen Drinking: The Role of Peers

Philadelphia, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—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 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 21-25. 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 find that early drinking is a risk factor for alcohol use disorders. Adults who took their first drink of alcohol before age 15 were 6.5 times more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder than those who didn’t start drinking before age 21.

Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30978496/

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Julie Marks, writer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation

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