Why Youth Say They Drink

When asked why today’s youth drink alcohol, 51% report neither they nor their friends drink. Among reasons cited by youth for why teens drink, 41% say to have a good time followed by celebrate (30%). Nearly three in ten teens (28%) say they drink to get drunk, and two in ten teens say to feel good (24%) or de-stress/relax (21%). (Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, TRU, Omnibuzz February 2003)

Where Youth Drink Alcohol

A lack of parental supervision appears to be the key ingredient in where today’s youth drink alcohol. When asked where underage drinking takes place, seven in ten teens cited parties with no parents home, followed by 61% of teens saying drinking occurs at their friends homes when the parents are not home. Other locations include parties in remote locations (48%), parties when parents are home (43%), and at events (34%).

(Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, TRU, Lifestyles and Marketing Study Wave 42, 2003)

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports a majority of current underage drinkers ages 12 to 20 who consumed alcohol in the past month said the last time they drank alcohol it was either in someone else's house (52%) or their own home (34%). Additionally, 78% of these underage drinkers said they were with two or more people the last time they drank.

Where Youth Get Alcohol

Family and friends are the leading source of alcohol for today's youth. When 10-18 year olds were asked the question, "How do you and your friends get the alcohol you drink?" a majority (65%) of today’s youth who have consumed alcohol in the past year report family and friends as the leading source from which they get alcohol. (Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, TRU, Omnibuzz May 2003)

  • Youth report contributing family and friend sources include older siblings or friends, parents allow me to have it, and taking it from my home or a friend’s home without permission.

Overall, kids and parents alike identify the same sources of alcohol for today’s youth.  In a separate study, parents with children ages 18 and younger were also asked, “How do you think today's youth get the alcohol they drink?” A majority (53%) of parents cited family and friends as the leading source of alcohol for today's youth. (Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Wirthlin Worldwide, Quorum May 2003)

Recent government studies among the nation’s youth have also confirmed parents as one of the leading sources of alcohol.  According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the majority of underage drinkers (ages 12-20), 62%, report getting their alcohol from adults such as parents, guardians, other family members or unrelated adults. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 40% of students who reported past-month consumption said that they usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them; the prevalence of having someone give them alcohol was higher among females (46%) than males (35%).

Influence of Parents

Despite being identified by youth as one of their primary sources of alcohol, hands down, parents are the most influential person or thing in a child’s decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion.

  • Eighty-three percent of youth report parents are the leading influence in their decision to not to drink alcohol. (Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, February 2012)

Regardless of the source of alcohol, youth report access to alcohol is easy. According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Study 91% of 12th graders, 78% of 10th graders, and 58% of 8th graders getting alcohol would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" for them to get alcohol.  On a positive note, despite reported ease of obtaining alcohol disapproval of binge drinking continues to increase among all three grade levels (8th, 86%; 10th, 78%; 12th, 70%).

Talking about Underage Drinking

Parents and kids are talking more than ever about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking.  Nearly half of parents (46%) report they have spoken with their 10-18 year old son or daughter four or more times in the past year about the dangers of underage drinking and a near equal number (42%) of youth ages 10 to 18 reported they that spoke as frequently with their parents, grandparents, or another adult caregiver about the dangers of alcohol in the past 12 months.

Even better news is that kids are listening more than ever to their parents when they talk about underage drinking and are recalling their conversations.  In 2003, only one-quarter of 10-18 years reported having conversations four or more times in the last year with their parents compared to 49% of parents who reported speaking to their sons and daughters four or more times in the past year about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking.  This represents a 62% increase proportionally in the number of youth who report discussing the dangers of underage drinking with their parents.

Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy in the news to get the conversation about underage drinking started between parents and their children (54% and 47%, respectively).  Other top conversation starters include something seen on TV or a movie (49%; 41%) and someone else getting caught with alcohol or drinking (37%; 36%)

Why Youth Don’t Drink

Sixty-six percent of today’s youth say they choose not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion because they don’t want to. Other leading reasons youth cite about why they don’t drink alcohol include:

  • it’s unsafe/unhealthy (62%)
  • it’s illegal (57%)
  • parents ask/tell me not to (54%)
  • it’s not cool (49%)
  • I’m afraid of getting caught and getting in trouble (24%)
  • and it would hurt my athletic performance (22%).

(Source: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, TRU, Omnibuzz February 2003)