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A new study from Australia’s Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) suggests that an alarming number of people don’t think it is wrong to supply alcohol to other people’s kids.

The study looked at people’s attitudes toward illegal alcohol-related acts, and found that when respondents were presented with a hypothetical situation, nearly one-third said they would be okay with giving alcohol to teens as long as they felt the teens were in a safe environment. These findings are especially troubling given the fact that the majority of Australian children have tried alcohol by the age of 12.

The approval of underage drinking exceeded positive reactions to other alcohol issues, like drunk driving. As researchers dug into the responses, they found that positive reactions to the hypothetical scenario reflected a belief that underage drinking is normal, as well as a perception that there is little chance of getting caught for providing alcohol to minors.

Underage Drinking in the U.S.

While the study was conducted in Australia, there’s plenty of evidence that similar attitudes exist in the U.S. Recently the Washington Post reported that a high school principal emailed the parents of every student urging them not to allow students to drink at their homes. The email came after he heard about multiple alcohol-involved parties hosted by parents.

Some parents argue that by providing the alcohol and supervising the drinking, they can teach teens to drink responsibly. But this approach frequently backfires—the American Medical Association notes that alcohol is a factor in nearly half of all teen car crashes, and there are numerous cases of teens being involved in DUI crashes after leaving an adult-hosted party.

Many states have “social host” laws that mean adults can be fined or even jailed for allowing underage drinking in their home, but as the Australia study highlights, many adults don’t believe they will get caught, or even that they are doing anything wrong. The study authors suggest that communities need to work to increase public awareness about the problems associated with underage drinking in order to change permissive attitudes towards it. What do you think?

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Alison Betts

Alison Betts

Alison Betts has nearly two decades of experience as a communications professional and researcher in corporate, nonprofit, and high education settings. Betts joined SCRAM Systems in 2013 and is the Director of Marketing & Public Relations. Prior to coming to SCRAM Systems, she held research and teaching positions at universities in Arizona and Colorado. Betts has also served as a public relations professional and grant writer in the nonprofit sector, where she saw first-hand the devastating impact of alcohol and substance abuse on families and communities. Betts holds an MA in English from the University of Colorado and a Master’s in Applied Communications from the University of Denver.

1 Comment

  1. My late mother got onto my uncle and grandfather when they tried to give my brother alcohol when he has under 18.While I do not agree with a drinking age of 21,it is still dangerous for people 18-20 to start consuming alcohol or marijuana. People think if something is legal it might be safe. My brother became a long-time alcoholic and neither of my parents consumed much in the way of alcohol. Never encourage a person to drink.

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