“Well, we did it when we were their age.”
This common refrain, popular among parents with a permissive attitude toward underage drinking, is often coupled with well-intentioned efforts to keep adolescents safe while consuming alcohol: Think encouraging alcohol-imbibing teens to take advantage of ride programs like Uber, to spend the night at a friend’s house, or to drink in one’s own home as opposed to unknown settings. Referred to by social scientists as “harm reduction,” this strategy is more than just ineffective, say experts. It’s helping to fuel an epidemic of teenage binge drinking.
Although many parents of today’s teenagers drank when they were young, data shows important differences between teen drinking then and now. In 1991, about half of high school students reported consuming alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015, less than 18 percent of high-schoolers drank. That 65 percent decline is news to celebrate. But here’s the bad news: Many of today’s teens who drink do so in excess. More than half of high school students who drink alcohol report recent episodes of binge drinking — consuming five or more drinks at a time — according to the CDC.
This comes as no surprise to Joseph LaBrie, a Loyola Marymount University psychology professor and alcohol researcher. “One of the major reasons I see now [for underage drinking] is to black-out, get wasted. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago,” he said.
Most parents don’t want their teens to binge drink. But parents who attempt to provide safe parameters — like having teens drink in the basement with friends — increase the likelihood that their offspring will become binge drinkers. “Parents truly think they’re doing the right thing. This is coming from such a good place,” acknowledged Lindsay Squeglia, an alcohol researcher and professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Researchers in the growing field of alcohol research aren’t interested in passing judgment on parents. Rather, they’re eager to share evidence that demonstrates unequivocally why teens benefit from waiting even a few years before they start drinking. Experts also want parents to know they have far more influence over their teens’ decisions regarding alcohol use than they may realize."
Source: The Washington Post