Alcohol consumption among young people, although it has seen a decline in recent years, is still a noteworthy contemporary issue. It should be acknowledged that it is a problem that concerns society as a whole and not just individuals or small portions of the population. Many scholars have pointed out that it is not only youth who have problems within the family who engage in illegal drinking but it is a problem that crosses all socioeconomic and ethnic populations. Therefore, the reasons that make children and adolescents succumb to this negative and harmful behavior are worthy of examination. The goal of this report is to identify important factors that drive adolescents to consume alcohol.
Though progress is being made, underage drinking remains a persistent problem. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 9.3 million Americans between ages 12-20 report current alcohol consumption. The National Research Council, reports that a significant number of 12 to 14 year olds are consuming alcohol. While those teenagers who drink usually don’t do it as often as adults, they tend to drink more excessively (Bonnie & O’Connel, 52). The small percentage of youth who drink heavily consume the vast majority of the alcohol imbibed by underage drinkers.
One of the factors that can contribute to the problem of underage drinking is accessibility of alcohol. It is relatively easy for minors to obtain alcohol, and the percentage of those who can get it without much difficulty grows considerably with age. Nearly 90 percent of twelfth graders feel that they have easy access to alcohol (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg). Thus, by the senior year of high school it no longer feels like a forbidden fruit, it is everywhere and it seems like a perfectly logical thing to give it a try. Besides, in the United States, children “grow up in a world filled with message about alcohol” (Bonnie & O’Connel, 70). They are informed about the detrimental effects of underage drinking in health class and are warned by their parents, but the image of alcohol they acquire from the world around them as a whole is still rather positive. It is presented as an ordinary and normal part of life for both adults and teenagers. As a consequence of drinking being both accessible and acceptable, occasional alcohol consumption becomes wide-spread among teens.
Another factor is the actual changes that adolescents need to adjust to. Their bodies are altering drastically along with their own minds and the social context. According to Steinberg and Cauffman, aspiration for autonomy and opportunity to be able to make one’s own decisions increases with age (56). Young people start looking older and are now expected to behave more like adults. They also want to assert themselves to their peers and to be perceived as mature and independent. Alcohol seems like a thing that could help accomplish this goal, as it is a symbol of adult status in the United States.