What Influences Pre-teens to Drink Alcohol?

Research has shown there to be a link between heavy drinking in youth and increased risky behaviour and reduced educational effectiveness.

In order to understand the factors that are associated with binge drinking in adolescence and young adulthood, it is important to understand the reasons why a young person has their initial drink.

This study, carried out by researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, investigates:

1. The link between parental and friends’ drinking with reported drinking among 11-year-olds 

2. The roles of perceptions of harm, expectancies towards alcohol, parental supervision and family relationships on drinking among 11-year-olds. 

The researchers analysed data gathered from the Millennium Cohort Study, which asked questions like:

Have you ever had an alcoholic drink? That is more than a few sips?

How much do you think people risk harming themselves if they drink one or two alcoholic drinks nearly every day?

On a scale of 1 to 7 where ‘1’ means completely happy and ‘7’ means not at all happy, how do you feel about your family?

Key findings

Cohort members whose mothers drank were more likely to drink 

Having friends who drank was strongly associated with cohort member drinking 

Young people were less likely to drink if they had a heightened perception of harm from 1–2 drinks daily, and negative expectancies towards alcohol.

Young people were more likely to drink if they had had positive expectancies towards alcohol; not being supervised on weekends and weekdays; frequent battles of will; and not being happy with family.

Overall 13.6 % of cohort members reported having drunk more than a few sips of an alcoholic drink. This highlights the importance of continued investigation into the reasons young people start drinking around this age whilst being mindful of cultural differences in attitudes towards drinking.

Kelly, Y., Goisis, A., Sacker, A. et al. What influences 11-year-olds to drink? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. BMC Public Health 16, 169 (2016) doi:10.1186/s12889-016-2847-x