Page last updated: Monday, February 09, 2009
Alcohol use amongst children is rooted in complex societal issues, says DCSF report
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have released a report; ‘Use of alcohol among Children and Young People’, which explores influences and barriers to young people’s involvement with alcohol and factors influencing various attitudes. The project also examined the role of current advertising and communication campaigns in the choices of children and young people whilst aiming to inform the design of interventions to young people and parents.

An overview of findings highlighted in the research brief include:

For most children and young people, a high level of dissociation from problems alongside the high level of enjoyment from drinking itself, means communication and information about under-age drinking is of low/very low interest. However there is a role for communications and information aimed at youths, but impact is likely to be limited without supporting work

Parents and carers are a critical audience. Parents do not have a sufficient understanding of the negative impacts of youth’s drinking and related issues. Parents also facilitate and often encourage youth’s drinking

To engage effectively youth with communications, targeted information needs to be supported by a broader re-framing of alcohol within society

A summary of findings examined a range of key issues including:

Personal disassociation and defence against under-age drinking and associated harms, which was ‘easy’ and ‘natural’ to both youths and Parents. A range of myths were used to enable a disassociated position including:

A widespread view that alcohol is ‘not really a drug’

A perception of graduated ‘manageability’ of alcohol (as one grows in experience)

A belief that ‘you learn by your own mistakes’; both Parents and youths assume drinking in this way leads to control being gained, and that getting drunk is a ‘rite of passage’

‘I am not at risk’: The overall perception of control generated by the above myths gives rise to this specific belief and the worst that can happen is vomiting or embarrassment

A fear that ‘over-parenting’ is a problem in itself and therefore parents do not have a role to play

The brief further explores the implications of the complex and underlying issues associated with alcohol use by youths and the roles of parents. It summarises that the research indicates that ‘the audience in England suspects – but doesn’t want to believe – that alcohol is a drug-like substance’ which creates a complex challenge in order to deliver successful interventions. Multi-faceted strategies must therefore communicate messages at a broad over-arching level to prevent dis-association, whilst targeted and specialised interventions are needed to effect various sub-groups.

The report is available at

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