Page last updated: Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Research on under age drinking by the Century Council
Three surveys commissioned by the Century Council on underage drinking, have found that parents and friends are the key source of alcohol to under age drinkers in the US.

The surveys, released in August, of more than 1,000 kids under 18 and 1,600 parents found that two-thirds of the children and more than half their parents agreed that the main source of alcohol for underage drinkers came from family and friends, although the parents tended to report that they were not providing alcohol."We don’t absolve the industry of responsibility for preventing underage drinking, but the parents play a major role and need to understand that this is where access is taking place," says Ralph S. Blackman, president of the Century Council, a non-profit group that conducted the surveys as part of a national public awareness program to combat underage drinking.

For the surveys, children ages 10 to 18 and adults, including 700 with children under age 18, responded through the Internet or by telephone. Among the kids, only 1% of 10-12 year olds reported drinking, compared with 23% of 13-15 year olds and 35% of 16-18 year olds. Among those who did drink, 65 % said they got alcoholic drinks from family and friends-either from older siblings or friends, by taking it from their home or a friend’s home without permission or by having parents who allowed them to drink.

From the parents’ perspective, 53% agreed that friends and family were the main source of alcohol. However, Blackman says, the parents rarely took responsibility for kids’ access to alcoholic beverages. "They will acknowledge that it’s somebody down the block, or a friend’s parents ...On an individual basis, it never starts at home." When asked about other ways to get alcohol, parents and children had different responses. For instance, 7 % of the children reported that they got alcohol from a store or bar that doesn’t check ID’s, while 18% of the parents thought that was a source for alcohol. About 5% of the children reported getting liquor from a stranger, by asking someone to buy them beer, for instance, while 10% of the parents listed that as a means of access.Only 3% of children reported successful use of fake ID’s to get alcohol, but 19% of their parents blamed fake ID’s for kids’ access to alcohol.

The aim of the program was simply to raise parental awareness, Blackman says. He says parents need to "be a good role model in terms of their own consumption and behaviour, identify bad behaviour, like kids not getting up in the morning or having their grades slip, and supervise them."

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