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Best friends influence when teenagers have first drink
Date:1/28/2013

rly two-dozen variables and a review of the literature, the UI-led team found five to be the most important predictors: two separate measures of disruptive behavior, a family history of alcohol dependence, a measure of poor social skills, and whether most best friends drink alcohol.

The researchers then looked at how the five variables worked in concert. Surprisingly, a best friend who drank and had access to alcohol was the most important predictor. In fact, adolescents whose best friend used alcohol were twice as likely to have a first drink, the researchers found. Moreover, if considered independently of the other variables, teenagers whose best friends drank are three times as likely to begin drinking themselves, the study found, underscoring the sway that friends have in adolescents' drinking behavior.

"Family history doesn't necessarily drive the age of first drink," notes Kuperman, who has studied teen drinking for more than a decade. "It's access. At that age (14 or 15), access trumps all. As they get older, then family history plays a larger role."

The current study drew from a pool of 820 adolescents at six sites across the country. The participants were 14 to 17 years old, with a median age of 15.5, nearly identical to the typical age of an adolescent's first drink found in previous studies. More than eight in 10 respondents came from what the researchers deemed high-risk families, but more than half of the teenagers had no alcohol-dependent parents. Tellingly, among those adolescents who reported having had drunk alcohol, nearly four in ten said their best friends also drank.

The result underscores previous findings that teenagers who have their first drink before 15 years of age are more likely to abuse alcohol or become dependent. It also supports the screening questions selected in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Academy of Pediatrics initiative to identify and help youth
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Contact: Richard Lewis
richard-c-lewis@uiowa.edu
319-384-0012
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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