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Best Friends Influence Teens' First Drink

By January 31, 2013

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The main predictor as to whether teenagers will begin drinking at an early age is if their best friends drink and have access to alcohol. Although a family history of alcohol abuse can play a role in the decision, approval of close friends and access to booze is the most important factor, researchers say.

Adolescents who get their first drink from friends are more likely to begin drinking earlier in life compared to those who get alcohol from other sources.

A national study conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa found that even teens from alcoholic families usually get their first drink from their best friends, instead of home.

Best Friends Who Drink

"When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don't get their first drinks from their family," said researcher Samuel Kuperman in a news release. "They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it's easier for them to have that first drink."

Kuperman's team studied 820 adolescents, ages 14 to 17, at six sites across the United States. Of those participants, 80% were from what the researchers determined to be high-risk families for developing alcohol abuse problems.

When they looked at all the factors that can contribute to early on-set drinking - disruptive behavior, a family history, or poor social skills - the number one predictor was if their best friends drank.

Access Is the Key

Four out of ten teens who reported that they had consumed alcohol had best friends who drank. Teens whose best friend used alcohol were twice as likely to have a first drink. When other factors were disregarded, teens whose best friends drink were three times as likely to begin drinking.

"Family history doesn't necessarily drive the age of first drink," said Kuperman. "It's access. At that age (14 or 15), access trumps all. As they get older, then family history plays a larger role."

Finding the motivation for taking the first drink at an early age is important to prevention programs because previous research has found that adolescents who have their first drink before age 15 are more likely to abuse alcohol or become alcohol dependent later in life.

Source: Kuperman, S, et al. "A Model to Determine the Likely Age of an Adolescent's First Drink of Alcohol." Pediatrics 6 January 2013.

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Photo: BigStockPhoto.com
February 4, 2013 at 9:16 am
(1) Jimmy says:

I fully agree with this article. I had tasted alcohol prior to 15 but it was then that my friends, who had access to it, and I started drinking regularly which led me to AA 35 years later and way past due.

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