Benefits of Teen Drinking Do Not Outweigh the Dangers

Here is a very interesting article from the HomeWord website, on the so called benefits of social drinking and teen girls. The full article can be viewed here. Benefits of Teen Drinking Do Not Outweigh the Dangers Author:    Jim Liebelt Not long ago, I came across a news report entitled, "Beers With Friends May Help Teen Girls". Given my convictions about teen at-risk behaviors like teen drinking, I'd rather ignore headlines like this. But, as one who keeps track of youth culture items, I feel obligated to write about research that points out both current dangers and positive trends, and studies that fit my convictions as well as those that do not. This is one of those times.

As you can easily decipher by the excerpt title, research done by Purdue University has found that there are some benefits to high school girls who sneak out for some beer occasionally with their friends. My first response is to reject the notion for a whole host of reasons, some of which I'll note below. Still, it's important to note that often research doesn't deal with morality and values, just behavior and effect. So, taken at face value, I can see how the study reached its conclusion.

According to the excerpt below, it seems the study focused on the outcome of high school girls who occasionally sneak a few beers with friends. Researchers found that the girls who do this are less depressed due to the ability to "blow off steam, get together, have fun, joke around with their peers."

Okay, again on face value, teen drinking is typically a social behavior. Not many occasional teen drinkers are going to be found pounding beers by themselves.

So, couldn't another legitimate conclusion have been reached had the study not focused on beer drinking, but rather the outcomes of teen social interaction, or even other behaviors that foster teen social interaction? In other words, I would argue that teens who get together "blow off steam, get together, have fun, joke around with their peers" are likely to see the same benefits regardless of what they do when they are together.

Perhaps someone will come up with a better analogy, but what follows is simply what I thought of first. What if the focus of the behavior that resulted in the beneficial teen social interaction had been texting while driving? Teens text a lot today. According to surveys, many teens admit to texting while driving. If texting while driving allows them to "blow off steam, get together, have fun, joke around with their peers," would it then follow to be a good idea to do so even if the result was that teens would be found to be less depressed? I don't think anyone will do research into this, for the obvious dangers of texting while driving outweigh any potential benefit!

I would argue the same for high school girls sneaking out to have some beers with friends. First, doing so is against the law (generally -- unless there are some very old high school girls.) Call me old-fashioned, but this in itself, makes the behavior wrong, no matter what the potential benefit there might be socially. Further, there have been studies which have shown that teen drinking can lead to dangerous consequences, such as driving while drinking, and making it more likely that occasional drinking can lead to heavier drinking, drunkenness, alcoholism, and other at-risk behaviors.

As a result, I've concluded that the potential dangers of teen drinking far outweigh any potential benefits.

My advice to parents: stay the course in setting clear expectations with your teens regarding drinking. There's a good possibility that your kids will experiment with alcohol before they graduate from high school, but hang in there. Doing what you can to help prevent your kids from drinking is the best course of action.

Further, help your kids find alternative, safer ways to "blow off steam, get together, have fun, joke around with their peers." There's no doubt in my mind that kids benefit from healthy social interaction with their peers -- and with a little homework and communication with your teens, you surely can find better options than drinking beer!

Here's the excerpt from the article which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, "Beers With Friends May Help Teen Girls":

Sneaking an occasional beer with friends could actually be a good thing for teens -- especially girls --according to new research that upends typically negative views on teens and alcohol.

Timothy Owens, a sociology professor at Purdue University in Indiana, found that high school girls who drank once or twice with their friends in the past month were less likely to feel depressed than those who didn't.

"The realistic explanation is that teens drink for a lot of reasons, and one of them is to blow off steam, get together, have fun, joke around with their peers," Owens says.

"Getting out with their friends and maybe having a few beers can actually have a positive effect on some, especially girls. It can loosen them up, but even more important, it gets them interacting with their peers."

And because girls especially value building and maintaining social relationships, it seems to have a positive effect on how they feel," he adds.

"We forget a lot of that in our research because most research is oriented toward addressing a problem, rather than looking at the normal experiences of teenagers," Owens says.

"We wanted to look at it open-mindedly."

The research included more than 1,000 high school students, and the results are published in the Journal of Adolescence.

Source: Ottawa Citizen