Peer influence is a huge factor in the development of teen drug abuse, but a new study suggests that the opinions of your son’s best friend may have the biggest impact on whether or not he opts to have that first alcoholic drink. If your son has friends who drink, this is one of the most significant factors in whether or not he will drink as well, a factor found to be even more significant than genetics or a history of behavioral problems.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study included 820 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 who all reported drinking alcohol. About 40 percent of participants said that their best friends drank as well. Researchers concluded that teens who had a best friend who drank were twice as likely to drink as well.
Samuel Kuperman of the University of Iowa was one of the researchers on the study. He said in a statement, “When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don’t get their first drinks from their family. They get their first drinks from their friends. They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it’s easier for them to have that first drink.”
Early Drink, Bigger Alcohol Abuse Problems
Studies show that drinking early in the teen years increases the likelihood of developing lifelong issues with alcohol abuse and addiction. A first drink that occurs before the age of 15 can be an indicator of serious alcohol problems in adulthood. Parents who are concerned that their teen is drinking are encouraged to get to know their child’s friends. You can:
- Pay attention to signs of drinking or a permissive attitude toward drinking (e.g., t-shirts with pro-drinking statements or pictures, coded comments)
- Ask questions. Ask your son about his experiences with alcohol, and talk to his friends in front of him as well. It’s unlikely they’ll confess to drinking if they are, but you can tell quite a bit through their behavior instead of their words.
- Know where your teen is all the time. Don’t take anything for granted, including after-school club meetings, practices, or anything that happens on the weekend. Make sure there is always appropriate supervision and check in often.
- Take action if there are any signs of alcohol abuse.
No amount of drinking is safe during the teen years, and if you believe that your son is drinking with his friends, don’t ignore the problem. Intervene immediately and put a stop to the behavior. If you find that your teen continues to drink, contact us at Muir Wood to find out how we can help.