For a lot of teens, drinking alcohol can be a way to fit in. Unsure of themselves and insecure about their ability to be accepted, some teens will decide to drink. The cruel irony of this decision is that, in some school environments, the teen winds up feeling even more ostracized and alone than the kids who don’t go ahead and drink. And once the teen feels apart from the crowd, grades begin to suffer too.
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the problem is most pronounced in small schools where few students drink and where there are strong social cliques. For the teen that drinks, he or she feels like part of the group only when they are with other drinking students. The rest of the time, using alcohol makes them feel lonely and isolated from their peers.
The study found that when teens feel like they don’t fit in with other students it shows up as bad grades. Even smart and very bright students find it difficult to overcome the social stress of not feeling included and fitting in. In fact, the researchers, who carefully tracked grades, discovered at least a one point drop in GPA when a teen was struggling with social issues.
Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Michigan analyzed data gathered through the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – a study that is considered to be the most far-reaching study of high school teens to date. Information on nearly 8,300 teenagers from 126 schools around the nation was used. Researchers factored out issues such as race, gender, ethnicity and social/economic status.
The results of this analysis revealed that drinking created more social anxiety than it cured and that stress led to a lower academic performance, most particularly in small school with tight-knit friendship groups. The researchers said that their findings don’t indicate that teens who drink would fare better in schools with cliques accepting of drinking. Instead, they warn that some school environments which may seem positive (e.g.: small schools with anti-drinking attitudes) are not necessarily helpful environments.
Social-emotional development and academic performance are clearly intertwined. So helping students to develop positive social interactions can actually improve a teen’s learning and school performance. Parents need to be attentive to both aspects of their teen’s development.
Here in BuchananCounty the St Joseph Youth Alliance wants to help parents create positive social environments. The program BC Rocks encourages parents of teens to sign a public pledge to keep their house that kind of environment. Parents who sign the BC Rocks pledge are giving their word of honor to keep alcohol away from teens and to provide adequate supervision when teens gather in their home. We encourage all parents to sign up and help kids find a better place to fit in.
Are high school and college kids destined to drink heavily? Not according to scientific study. Research at
universities around the nation show that parents who lay down the law about underage drinking really do help their kids say no to drinking. This is important since studies also demonstrate how drinking during the years before college graduation can harm the brain in measurable ways.
Years of neuro-scientific study have shown that the human brain continues developing far into a person’s first years of adulthood. The pre-frontal cortex – the area responsible for judgment, reasoning and self-control – is not fully formed until a person is in their mid-to-late 20s. That means that the brain is
not completely formed and functional until after most people finish their college education.
A study performed through the University of California, San Diego found that binge drinking during
adolescence can produce abnormalities in brain white matter. White matter is the stuff which creates communication bridges between various areas of the brain. The U.C. San Diego study found that a habit of binging (five or more drinks for a man and four or more for a women) can degrade memory and cognitive
function within as little as two years’ time. A certain number of the teens in the study showed impaired memory and cognition with as few as a dozen drinks per month.
Apart from giving kids the information about drinking and the brain, what more can parents do to keep young people away from alcohol? A good deal actually. Another study, this one performed through Penn State University, found that parents who held a firm line against underage drinking had kids who were less likely to drink once they got to college. The study tracked 300 parents and teens from high
school and into their freshman year of college. The study found a link between parental acceptance of drinking and a young person’s drinking behavior even after they left home.
A third study, at the University of Rhode Island, found that parents who were careful to be informed about where their teen was, who they were with and what they were doing during high school had kids who tended to drink less once they got to college. These studies and more were the subject of an NPR broadcast on the role parents can play in their children’s drinking decisions.
Here in Buchanan County, parents can join together to help teens have fun without using alcohol.
Sponsored by the Youth Alliance, BC Rocks is a collaboration between area moms and dads interested in taking a community stand against underage drinking. By signing up for BC Rocks parents are going on the record as hosts where alcohol will never be served to minors and homes where parents will be
paying attention to what teens are doing.
Parents who let their kids know that drinking is not okay can lower the chances that their child will drink heavily once outside of the house. Parents who stand together can make a county-wide impact. Contact the St. Joseph Youth Alliance to find out how to sign up today.