The Dangers of Childhood Drinking

Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for criminal activity

(RxWiki News) The presence of alcohol in the body brings out the worst in some people, initiating further concerns about its potential effects on minors.

Although the connection between alcohol intake and criminal activity is hardly novel, studies rarely investigate the correlation between youth alcohol consumption and consequent behavior.

However, a new study made available online found a strong relationship between adolescent drinking and criminal activity.

"Talk to a therapist if your child engages in underage alcohol use.  "

Corresponding author on the study, Michael French of the University of Miami, explains the importance of these implications, “Adolescents who are criminally active are significantly more likely to be adult criminals.”

Available in the upcoming March 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, French’s study analyzes data from thousands of respondents to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Administering the study in four waves, over sixty thousand respondents were asked questions examining alcohol-use similarities and criminality from childhood to young adult. 

According to French, their findings showed, “for both adolescent males and females, more frequent alcohol consumption is associated with a greater probability of committing a property crime, committing a predatory crime, and being a victim of a predatory crime."

"While we were not necessarily surprised that these relationships existed for both genders, the strength of the relationships was a bit unexpected as well as the fact that they were robust to numerous sensitivity tests."

French hopes that those interacting with underage drinkers “use these findings as an incentive to be vigilant about underage alcohol use as this behavior could be linked with current criminal activities or a least a precursor to future illegal acts.”

dailyRx contributing expert Robert Pressman, Ph.D., the director of research at the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology (NECPP), explained that parents may view adolescent drinking as a familiar pastime or normal stumbling block.  Dr. Pressmen comments, "Because of this, many parents may consider punishment for their child, i.e. ‘grounding’ but do not consider treatment.”

“Often a child is brought in for treatment for an emotional problem. However, it may be uncovered that alcohol is a significant part of the picture,” Pressman states.

“It is basic knowledge among psychotherapists that if the alcohol problem is not addressed first, the child cannot be successfully treated for the emotional problem.”

For parents, its important to understand that the legal drinking age has been established for a reason. The effects of alcohol on the body are complex.

Dr. Pressman continues, “We do not usually think of alcohol as a ‘mind-altering drug’ like marijuana or cocaine. However, it is.” 

“The worst thing about child and adolescent use of drugs and alcohol is that it stops social development dead in its tracks.”

The implications of underage alcohol intake can be extraordinarily detrimental, and its important for parents to maintain communication and understanding with their children in order to stop a problem before it starts.

Review Date: 
December 15, 2011