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Adults Most Common Source of Alcohol for Teens

Armen Hareyan's picture

Alcohol and Teens

Polls show teenagers, especially girls, obtain alcohol easily from friends and family

The American Medical Association (AMA) released the results of two nationwide polls today that reveal how underage youth obtain alcohol, as well as how easily and often. The polls also show parental opinions and behaviors about providing alcohol to teenagers and perceptions on how youth acquire alcohol. The polls were funded as part of the AMA's partnership with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"From a public health standpoint, these findings are frankly disturbing," said J. Edward Hill, MD, President of the AMA. "While it is of great concern to see how easily teens, especially young girls, get alcohol, it is alarming to know that legal-age adults, even parents, are supplying the alcohol."

The poll of teens, aged 13-18, found that nearly half reported having obtained alcohol at some point. In all age groups, girls nearly always ranked higher than boys in obtaining alcohol. In the adult poll, about one out of four U.S. parents with children, aged 12-20 (26 percent), agree that teens should be able to drink at home with their parents present.

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"Policies and law enforcement efforts to stop minors from obtaining alcohol are important, but this data reveals how easily avoided those policies and laws can be when legal-aged buyers are the leading source of alcohol for children," said Hill. "And even parents who do not buy for their children could be unwitting sources if their alcohol at home is left unsecured."

Two out of three teens, aged 13-18, said it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. One third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, which increases to 40 percent when it is from a friend's parent. And one in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents.

"Parents allowing underage children to drink under their supervision are under a dangerous misperception," said Hill. "Injuries and car accidents after such parent-hosted parties remind us that no parent can completely control the actions of intoxicated youth, during or after a party. And the main message children hear is that drinking illegally is okay."

Other key findings of the two polls on alcohol include:

"Nearly one in four teens, aged 13-18, and one in three girls, aged 16-18, say their own parents have supplied them with alcohol, and teens who have obtained alcohol reported that, in the past six months, parents were the suppliers three times on average.

"While 71 percent of parents with children, aged 12-20, disagreed with the statement that teen drinking was okay if a parent were present, 76 percent think it is likely that teenagers get alcohol from someone's parent