Published on January 29, 2013 at 6:26 AM
"Family history doesn't necessarily drive the age of first drink," notes Kuperman, who has studied teen drinking for more than a decade. "It's access. At that age (14 or 15), access trumps all. As they get older, then family history plays a larger role."
The current study drew from a pool of 820 adolescents at six sites across the country. The participants were 14 to 17 years old, with a median age of 15.5, nearly identical to the typical age of an adolescent's first drink found in previous studies. More than eight in 10 respondents came from what the researchers deemed high-risk families, but more than half of the teenagers had no alcohol-dependent parents. Tellingly, among those adolescents who reported having had drunk alcohol, nearly four in ten said their best friends also drank.
The result underscores previous findings that teenagers who have their first drink before 15 years of age are more likely to abuse alcohol or become dependent. It also supports the screening questions selected in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Academy of Pediatrics initiative to identify and help youth at risk for alcohol use, the researchers write.
Kuperman, whose faculty appointment is in the Carver College of Medicine, says he hopes to use the study to delve into the genetics underpinning alcoholism, chiefly tracking adolescents who use alcohol and see whether they have genes that match up with their parents if they also are problem drinkers.
"We're trying to separate out those who experiment with alcohol to those who go on to problematic drinking," he says.
Source: University of Iowa