Access to Alcohol among Middle School Children: There is no place like home

Unique study observing patterns of social and commercial alcohol access

New York, May 29, 2007 - New research suggests that if parents want to keep alcohol away from their middle school children, the best place to start is at home. The study, reported in the June issue of Preventive Medicine, shows that of 11-14 year olds who choose to drink, only a small fraction (2.4% in the 6th grade, rising to 5.6% at the end of the 8th grade) obtain alcohol from commercial venues. More than one-third of the alcohol consumed by these children came from their own or a friend’s parents or guardians.

The proportion of alcohol users is also disturbing; 17% at the start of the 6th grade and more than twice as many, 41% by the end of the 8th grade. The study reminds parents that they need to consider their positions as role models at the crucial time when their middle school children are likely to have their first serious encounters with alcohol.

Between 2002 and 2005, Principal Investigator Kelli Komro, lead author Mary O Hearst and colleagues studied a cohort of 3,709 students, mainly of Hispanic and African-American backgrounds, who were surveyed in 58 Chicago public schools at the beginning and end of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The study is unique as no other study has followed young, racially diverse, poor urban youth over a two and a half year period, observing patterns of social and commercial alcohol access in this manner.

"Early onset of drinking leads to a long list of alcohol-related problems. It is important to educate parents about the consequences of alcohol use at a young age and try to prevent them from being their child’s primary source of alcohol" comments the lead author.

Mary O Hearst is at the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. Email: onei0085@umn.edu. The article, "Who needs liquor stores when parents will do? The importance of social sources of alcohol among young urban teens" appears in Preventive Medicine, Volume 44, number 6, June 2007, published by Elsevier. Copies of the study are available to the news media by emailing newsroom@elsevier.com.

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