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Racial Differences in Female Teen Drinking

Posted in Teens

Understanding what contributes to the early initiation of alcohol use among teens is critical in developing prevention strategies. Early intervention is important, but it is far better to prevent teens from ever tasting their first drink of alcohol.

Preventing early initiation is essential for many reasons. Many who begin drinking alcohol during their teen years transition into young adulthood with an alcohol addiction, which can significantly impact academic and professional achievement.

Besides the immediate risks of alcohol consumption like injury and risky sexual behavior, there are also long-term physical risks. When alcohol is introduced earlier, the individual has increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers.

Prevention, therefore, is critical. To better target individuals who may be at an increased risk of early initiation and abuse of alcohol when young, it is important to understand various factors about those who drink.

A new report provides insight into racial differences among teen females who drink alcohol. Researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Pittsburgh found that white girls are more likely to drink during their teen years when compared with black girls.

Among teen girls that consume alcohol, white girls tend to drink a combination of both liquor and beer, while black girls drink more liquor. Lead author Mildred Maldonado Molina, Ph.D., associate professor of health outcomes and policy, says that the findings will help policymakers to make plans for preventive interventions in their communities. In turn, this will help reduce some of the negative consequences that come from teens consuming alcohol.

The research involved national surveys in addition to a two-year study given to high school students with a longitudinal design.

Study author Tammy Chung, Ph.D., association professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says that one goal of the study was to examine the role of neighborhood conditions in alcohol use among female teens.

They found that for both white and black girls, neighborhood conditions predicted alcohol-related behaviors in relation to peer and parental influences on decisions related to alcohol.

The researchers utilized information gathered in the Pittsburgh Girls Study, a sample of 2,171 girls in an urban setting, including 1,234 black girls and 935 white girls. The girls were asked in a survey about their alcohol consumption.

The researchers discovered that there was more variety in the drinking behaviors reported by the white girls in the study when compared to the black girls. The black girls indicated a low level of alcohol consumption during their teen years, with the likelihood that they would drink increasing as they grew older. However, white girls that drank may only consume wine in very small amounts, or they could begin drinking at a young age.

The risks that impacted drinking behaviors also differed by race. White girls surveyed had easier access to alcohol, but black girls were more liable to indicate that neighborhood conditions were conducive to alcohol consumption.

There were some predictors that were similar between white and black girls. The alcohol consumption of friends, neighborhood conditions and the ability to obtain alcohol easily were all common predictors of drinking during teen years.

The authors note that routine alcohol screening is important to identify those who are early initiators and provide an early intervention. This can prevent ongoing physical health problems.

Parents can also help their teens avoid alcohol use with conversations about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Providing information about risks in combination with clear communication of rules and consequences may help teens avoid early initiation.