The science behind the drinking pattern of youth 

A substantial body of research shows that young people’s first alcoholic drink and first intoxication usually occur in their final years of elementary school and peak before their mid-20s. 

But is there a pattern? 

Young people’s alcohol consumption on a given day is the combined result of their present life circumstances, past experiences, and future expectations.

Previous studies indicate that both early drinking onset and heavy drinking during adolescence are associated with family background characteristics, including social class, income and education. Alcohol consumption during adolescence is also associated with cultural factors such as gender roles, for example, masculine, risk-oriented lifestyles, parental styles and peer-group pressure. 

These studies provide important insights about the structural factors influencing youth drinking, individual decision-making in the social context must also be taken into consideration. 

Alcohol consumption is closely associated with the social context 

There is often an assumption that young men and women have to learn to become alcohol users by following the culturally prescribed pattern of drinking in which drinking too much—or too little—may lead to low popularity. 


Daily alcohol consumption is categorized into five groups: not drinking (not shown), cautious drinking (one unit of alcohol), moderate drinking (2–5 units of alcohol for men and 2–4 units for women), binge drinking (6–10 units for men and 5–10 for women) and heavy binge drinking (more than 10 units of alcohol). At age 15–16, both genders are most likely to drink on a Friday when most consume between 2–4 units of alcohol (about 40% of the men and 37% of the women). 

» Saturday is the second most likely day for this age group. 
» Results show men become more likely to be weekend bingers. 

» At age 15–16 and 18–19, academic motivation is positively associated with belonging to the majority group and negatively associated with heavy drinkers. 

» ‘Family socio-economic background’ variables such as parents’ education and income are not strongly associated with the young people’s weekly drinking patterns. 

» Family instability is, however, significantly associated with less likelihood of belonging to the majority group and weekend drinking at age 15–16 and 18–19. 

» Regarding ‘lifestyle indicators’, both smoking cigarettes and having friends described as drunk are strongly related to a weekly drinking typology with high alcohol intake. 

» Temporal drinking patterns were associated with individual factors (gender, academic motivation), family socio-economic background (parental income and education, family instability), lifestyle indicators and past drinking patterns. 

» The main finding is that young people have very distinctive weekly drinking patterns. 

» Lack of academic motivation was found to be associated with high alcohol intake at age 15–16 and 18–19. 

Click here to read the article. 


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