Based on media reports in the United States, it is evident that the prevalence of drinking among adolescents has increased. Whereas it is true that not all teenage drinkers are alcoholics, there is a growing concern that the number of young people who exhibit symptoms of alcohol dependency is increasing, which in turn, can lead to excessive alcohol consumption. By definition, alcoholism is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive and often compulsive drinking of alcohol resulting in physical and psychological dependence or addiction. Personally, I see this as a problem given that the adverse physical and psychological impacts of alcoholism among teens affect both individuals and the broader community. Although various types of treatment are available to those affected, by the time treatment commences, major damage has already been done. This paper argues that the best way that high schools can use to curb drinking by their students is through education and prevention of the problem. To achieve this objective, it is important to understand what causes teens to drink to excess. Alcoholism among teens is a complex issue and so are the reasons for its existence. The factors that cause teens to engage in excessive drinking can be categorized are both social and psychological. The paper begins by identifying the major causes of excessive drinking among teenagers. This is followed by an examination of whether parents are at all culpable when their children drink. Thereafter, the paper examines the views of law enforcement about this problem and how the courts have treated the issue. Finally, the paper ends by examining what high schools do to address the problem of drinking among their students and recommends further actions.
There are five major social causes that make teenagers to use alcohol. In settings such as high school, students have a basic need for acceptance by their colleagues or a particular group. In high school teenage circles, alcohol consumption signifies friendship, sociability, and unity. During teenage years, students want to feel that they are part of a group (Bateman 101). Accordingly, by accepting an offer for a drink, they develop a sense of belonging in that group. Besides, teenagers are also rebellious. Consequently, alcohol consumption is a tool they use to portray a general rejection of conventional adult standards, which explains why teenagers engage in excessive consumption of alcohol. Besides, teenagers have a tendency of judging their peers based on their ability to consume alcohol in larger quantities over a shorter duration. Those who are able to do it are viewed as powerful (Hornik-Beer 35). As a result, as the teens try to outdo each other in alcohol drinking, it creates a good environment for excessive alcohol consumption. Connected to this is the belief that consuming alcohol is a symbol of adult status. Another social cause is alienation from parents, peers or both(Hornik-Beer 35). Teenagers may feel alienated for different reasons such as failing to fit in due to differences in values and attitudes and conflicts between parents leading to a broken home. The failure to relate well with people at home can be very frustrating for teenagers and this forces them to find refuge at school, which leads to psychological causes of excessive alcohol intake among students.
According to Roberts (2002), there are four main psychological causes. He contends that the primary psychological reason for teen drinking is to bring about a feeling of satisfaction, which means inducing pleasure or avoiding discomfort. In his study, Roberts found that teenagers use alcohol to reduce tension occasioned by the fact they feel alienated. Furthermore, he also observed that alcohol induces a feeling of relaxation among teens, which is very satisfying (Bateman 37). Consequently, in the process of reducing tension, teenagers find themselves abusing alcohol. Even when a teenager discovers that he or she is engaged in excessive alcohol consumption, they use their behavior as excuse for their actions or a means to attract attention, which leads to the psychological cause of alcoholism.
The link between social and psychological causes of alcohol consumption among teens is a complex one. However, as already noted, young people indulge in alcohol for numerous reasons including releasing tension, rebellion, for power, group acceptance, and as an excuse for their behavior. When these conditions are reinforced, they drink even more. Once teenagers realize that alcohol can satisfy them in one way or another, they automatically progress to drinking more. Hence, reinforcement of satisfaction is the immediate cause of excessive drinking in teens (Bateman 87). Many youths in the U.S. today portray depressive, antisocial, or delinquent behavior. Despite the fact these personality disorders are not the main cause of drinking among teens;they appear to promote psychological conditions that may result in excessive alcohol intake. In such instance, excessive drinking is more likely to develop. Nonetheless, these disorders on their own are insufficient to cause alcoholism, but are mere contributory factors.
Given the magnitude of this problem are parents responsible? The answer is yes, they are partly culpable for their children`s drinking. In a survey conducted in the United Kingdom, it was found that 50% of all under 18 drinkers were actually given alcohol by either their father or mother. Additionally, the study revealed that many parents are not taking action despite knowing that their children, some as young as, ten years are involved in excessive drinking. In many developed countries, including the U.S., parents are often cited as the primary suppliers of alcohol to their children and are generally thought to be aware of their children`s behavior (Slack 2). The findings from the survey indicate that parents too need to take some responsibility to address their children`s excessive drinking habits.
Considering the huge social and economic impact alcohol abuse presents to the society, it is important to examine the views of law enforcement and courts on this matter. In some states such as Maryland, parents or third parties that give alcohol to underage children can held to account if the underage drinker is either hurt or injures others. The Maryland’s highest court noted that underage people not individually responsible for alcohol intake on an adult`s property since children are not competent to handle the adverse effects of alcohol as a potentially dangerous substance. However, to be held accountable, the adult person must willfully and knowingly give alcohol to an underage individual. The reality is that many children die in the U.S. annually as a result of impaired driving crashes occasioned by underage drinkers who leave parties hosted by their guardians and parents. Therefore, it would be irresponsible for law enforcement officers and the courts to allow this to continue without punishment. Accordingly, parents or guardians who willfully and knowingly host teenage drinkers must be subjected to both civil and criminal suits. However, this does not apply to parents or guardians whose children host parties in their absence (Quigley 1).
Given that many teenagers are introduced to alcohol in high school, it is critical to examine how schools are addressing this challenge. As noted earlier, teenagers draw conclusion about alcohol primarily from what they see and hear at school, particularly from classmates and friends. Specifically, teens who believe that alcohol consumption is the norm accepted by their peers are at higher risk of experimenting with alcohol and become excessive drinkers at a tender age. Many schools employ prevention efforts as the most effective strategy to change beliefs among students about the acceptability and preference of alcohol use among their colleagues. Consequently, principals, teachers, health educators, school nurses, coaches, and guidance and counseling professionals in high schools continue to play a critical role in prevention of teenage drinking by promoting anti-use norms and prevention efforts in school settings. Some schools have joined hands with their communities to reduce teen drinking. In their prevention efforts, schools undertake a wide range of activities including teaching their students skills on how to refuse alcohol and developing and enforcing school policies on alcohol consumption. Additionally, some schools have gone an extra step to reduce access to alcohol on school property and the neighboring community (CARS 1).
In conclusion, the paper has argued that the most effective strategy of protecting youths from excessive alcohol consumption is through creating education and awareness. Evidently, the causes of alcohol consumption among teens are complex and involve both social and psychological factors that are interconnected in so many ways. Given the complexity of controlling the social and psychological factors, to successfully prevent alcohol among teens, the paper offers the following recommendations:
- Schools and communities should assess student drinking to ascertain the extent of the problem
- Factors that may contribute to student drinking in schools and communities, such as peer pressure, parent`s failure, and ease of access, should be identified
- Internally, schools should take steps to develop systems that assist teens resist the pressure.
- Externally, schools should work with other stakeholders to educate parents on alcohol consumption among teens.
Bateman, Becki. Male Teenagers 9 Early Signs of Alcoholism. Inspiring Voices, 2012.
Center for Applied Research Solutions (CARS). “Preventing Adolescent Binge Drinking.” 2016. https://www.youthbingedrinking.org/you/schools.php. Accessed 21 Jan. 2017.
Hornik-Beer, Edith. For Teenagers Living with a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs. Open Road Media, 2016.
Quigley, Aidan. “Are Parents Responsible For Kids’ Drinking? Maryland Court Says Yes.” Csmonitor.com, 2017. https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2016/0706/Are-parents-responsible-for-kids-drinking-Maryland-court-says-yes. Accessed 21 Jan. 2017.
Slack, James. “Parents responsible for underage drinking.” Daily Mail, 2017. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-388826/Parents-responsible-underage-drinking.html. Accessed 21 Jan. 2017.