This just in from ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2007) — Most high school seniors drink because they want to experiment with alcohol, some drink for the thrill of it, and others because it helps them relax. A new study finds that a fourth group of high school students share all those reasons for drinking, but they also drink to get away from problems and to deal with anger or frustration issues.

Kids with multiple reasons to drink, including reasons related to coping with life, show the heaviest and most problematic drinking behaviors. The data for the study came from 1,877 students from the national Monitoring the Future survey conducted annually.

"Our study found that for the graduating class of 2004, students who had multiple reasons to drink, including reasons related to coping, were also more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age, more likely to be drunk in the past year and more likely to drink before 4:00 pm, compared to students who drank to experiment with alcohol, to experience the thrill of drinking or just to relax," according to Donna Coffman, Ph.D., of Penn State.

"It is important to know why high school seniors drink so parents, teachers and high school counselors can pay special attention to the needs of the small but high-risk group of seniors who offer multiple reasons for drinking and who also have anger or frustration issues. Research shows that drinking patterns established during adolescence are likely to continue through adulthood," according to Coffman.

More than three-quarters of high school seniors have already experimented with alcohol, so it is too late to tell them 'not to drink,' or ask them to wait until they are of legal age. Kids who drink to help them deal with anger or frustration issues are not likely to benefit from a prevention program developed for kids who are just experimenting with alcohol, Coffman said.

Coffman and her colleague Lori Palen, also from Penn State, said the purpose of their study was to identify the major motivations for drinking, find out if the motivations were different for boys and girls, and understand how the different motivations for drinking among boys and girls were related to drinking initiation, frequency of drunkenness and daytime drinking.

"Boys were more likely to belong to the higher-risk group of thrill seekers, while girls were more likely to belong to the lowest level of risky drinking, the experimenters. Both boys and girls who drank just to experiment with alcohol were also more likely to initiate drinking at a later age, compared to those who drank for other reasons" Coffman said.

Compared to the experimenters, boys who reported drinking before 4 p.m.were eight times more likely to belong to the highest-risk group that drank for multiple reasons; girls who drank before 4 p.m. were six times more likely to belong to the group that drank for multiple reasons.
Coffman said that their study looked at a representative sample of one graduating class. "We cannot say our results apply to all graduating classes after 2004, but the findings should certainly be useful to educators, prevention experts and parents."

Previous studies have found that alcohol use reaches its peak level during and immediately after high school graduation. It remains high through the age of 25, "that is why the senior year of high school is a critical point for which to understand the motives for drinking and to establish healthier alcohol use behaviors," Coffman said.

The full study is published in the December issue of Prevention Science, a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research.
Adapted from materials provided by Society for Prevention Research.

Society for Prevention Research (2007, December 5). Four Reasons Why High School Seniors Drink: One Could Signal Problem Drinking.
ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from­ /releases/2007/12/071204091854.htm

About 1 and 1/2 years ago I conducted a survey of over 100 high school students in the separate school system in Niagara. One of the questions I asked was, "Do you use drugs, alcohol, sex and/or gambling to cope with your anger/stress?" 3o% of the respondents indicated that they do use these risk-taking behaviours as coping mechanisms.

When I first released the results, I remember thinking, "This number isn't so bad - it is only 30% ..." But that means that potentially 3 out of every 10 teenagers will choose a poor coping method - all of the above mentioned behaviours have the potential to be highly addictive (yes - sex too) - so what can we do to teach our children better coping methods?

First: Let's lead by example. Pouring yourself a drink as soon as you walk through the door after a hard day, is sending a clear message to your kids - that alcohol can help relieve stress. This is true for people who stop off at the bar on the way home as well. Drinking does not solve problems - it creates them. Parents who roll and toke in front of their kids are also setting a terrible example - how can we expect our children to take the high road, if they see us doing differently?

Now - I must be clear. I am not so naive as to think that all kids who turn to alcohol/drugs/sex/gambling learned to do that from their parents! Many kids rebel against the morals of their parents and turn to these behaviours that they have never witnessed in the home. All I am saying is that we can start by being good examples to our kids.

Second: How about a little education? Our kids are inundated with messages from television, radio, print media, schoolmates/peers, and more. However, the voice of the parent or primary caregiver still holds a great deal of sway in those volatile teenage years. If we throw our hands up and say, "Well, it's just a phase..." or "They don't listen to me anymore..." we do our kids a great disservice. Just because a kid doesn't look like he's listening, doesn't mean he isn't. It is part of the natural developmental process for teens to begin to "distance" themselves from their parents; however, they still need boundaries, and they are looking for their parents and other significant authority figures in their lives to help to set those boundaries. Let's not shirk our responsibilities in this area.

Third: Provide alternatives. Show teens how to communicate effectively - provide them with the tools and the language they need to explain their feelings and to work through conflict in a constructive way. Teach them how to resolve anger (rather than bottling it up, or drowning it in booze). Show them how to release stress in productive ways rather than engaging in risk-taking behaviour.

Everything we need to be effective in our lives is right in front of us - we just need to be shown how to use the tools we have. Take me for example - I'm math illiterate. I have all the tools in MS Excel to do calculations for me, but I don't know how to set up the equations. Once someone teaches me, I'll be able to do it for myself. But until then, I constantly require help, or I just find SOME OTHER WAY to get the job done. Teenagers are the same. They have the tools they need to resolve their negative emotions, but they need help - a teacher/mentor who will show them how to use those tools. Without that assistance, they will find SOME OTHER WAY to release stress and anger - and they will resort to what they know.

So - let's do our part to help our kids to make right choices. Set an example. Teach them what them is right and wrong. And provide them with alternatives to the risk-taking behaviours they may be inclined to choose if left to their own devices.

Author's Bio: 

An internationally recognized speaker and expert in the area of Anger Resolution and Stress Management, Julie Christiansen brings over 15 years experience in group and individual counseling, to your boardroom. Branded as “Oprah for the Office” by some of her clients, Julie educates and entertains audiences throughout Canada, and the United States, and the Caribbean. She is the author of several books including, "Anger Solutions", "Top Ten Lists to Live By", and "Anger Solutions at Work". Julie has successfully merged her previous career as a counselor for people with mental illness, brain injury, addictions, and at-risk youth with her passion for helping teams attain peak performance and productivity through enhanced communication models. Julie holds a BA in Psychology and is a Master Trainer in the Anger Solutions(TM) Model. She is a Certified Public Speaker, and holds certificates in Suicide Intervention/Prevention (ASSIST), Non-violent Crisis Intervention, and Bereavement Counselling. She is the founder of the Canadian Association of Anger Solutions(TM) Professionals.