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Childhood Drinking: A Discussion Guide

Childhood Drinking: A Discussion Guide

We encourage you to use this information in many different ways: 

  • with co-workers around the lunch table
  • with civic groups
  • book clubs
  • Town Hall Meeting


Childhood Drinking final.pdf









For more Information:

Formal Conversations

Formal conversations are more like deliberations where a group of persons discuss the reasons for and against a measure or solution.  In this instance, three options (solutions) have been proposed around which the deliberation will occur.  These include:

    Option One:  Reach Children with Problems Early
    Option Two:  Remove Access and Incentives; and
    Option Three:  Help Chidren through Difficult Times in Development

These deliberations often end with some sort of follow-up action.  Perhaps it is an individual parent/guardian who resolves to talk to their child about alcohol, or perhaps it is a group of individuals who want to band together to build or enhance community efforts designed to  implement the proposed solutions.  For more information on deliberations, visit the National Issues Forum website.

When organizing a formal conversation/deliberation/forum, the first thing to remember is that YOU ARE NOT


ALONE.  Who would be interesed in the issue of childhood drinking and who might be willing to help organize a formal conversation:

    Librarians, parent associations, teachers, and school administrators are valuable sources of information about youth, peer groups, and youth trends.
    Service clubs, churches, and faith-based organizations are groups that cut across every facet of community life; partnering with them proves the odds of having broad and diverse participation.
    It is important to get views from people whose voices or perspectives are not often heard in public forums. Childhood drinking is an issue that affects families at all income levels, all races, and all ethnic groups. Recruiting participants from nontraditional settings, such as workforce training programs, English-as-a-second-language programs, GED workshops, and community colleges, may be good places to find individuals whose voices have not been heard on this issue.
    The media are the best sources of public advertising. Some public television stations and newspapers cover forums. Some newspapers have published issues in brief or issue maps which can be found in the “Engage” portion of Citizens can also write letters to the editor.
     Chambers of Commerce and members of the business community have been valuable assets in community enhancement projects.

The second thing to remember is that there are prepared documents to help you.  The documents and resources listed below can help you make choices about this question:  How could our community prevent and reduce drinking by children aged 9-15?    They include:

    A sixteen-page discussion guide titled, “Childhood Drinking:  How Can We Prevent and Reduce the Number of Children Drinking Alcohol?”
    An eight-page guide to holding a conversation using the discussion guide
    A participant questionnaire for use  post-discussion


    A four-page “issue map” that outlines possible solutions for each of three options presented–to be used as a participant handout
    A link to a video hosted on U-Tube that introduces the three options–to be used as an introduction to the discussion
    State Data on Childhood Drinking Including Data on the Number of Children Who Drink Before Age 13


Related Links to Videos on U-Tube about Childhood Drinking

    Lisa’s Story
    Sir Liam Donaldson on drinking in childhood – a short clip about the issue in Great Britain

Informal Conversations

Informal conversations happen in multiple ways.

    Sometimes they are between two people (or sometimes a small group) that just happen as the opportunity presents itself.  Let’s say, for example, that a small group of parents/guardians are having a small get-together.  During the course of conversation, someone brings up the fact that the police department recently busted up an  underage drinking party in the neighborhood.  That’s a teachable moment —  a time at which a person is attuned to a topic and more likely to take away from the scenario key points about an issue or concern.  That is, awareness can be raised, and new concepts can be learned.
    Sometimes they are more deliberate–planned events where a small group of individuals come together for the purpose of discussing the issue.  Let’ssay, for example, that the community has just passed a social host ordinance and a feww parents come together to discuss the implications that it has for property owners in the community.  Or, an employee might choose to hold a brown-bag lunch at work on the issue of underage drinking as a way to lower employee benefit costs related to adolescent substance abuse treatment.
    There area multitude of other scenarios and one thing they all have in common is a single individual–someone willing to bring up the topic.

The Leadership’s Engage initiative is about giving you the confidence (through the provision of information and resources) to be that person.  Here are some things to help you be informed on the issue:

    How many kids in your state are drinking before the age of 13?
    What are some possible solutions?
    Where do I go for more information?

Facts on Underage Drinking by Options Presented in the Discussion Guide

Underage drinking cost the citizens of The United States $68.0 billion in 2007. These costs include medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth.1 This translates to a cost of $2,280 per year for each youth in the State. Excluding pain and suffering from these costs, the direct costs of underage drinking incurred through medical care and loss of work cost the United States $22.3 billion each year.

Youth violence (homicide, suicide, aggravated assault) and traffic crashes attributable to alcohol use by underage youth in the United States represent the largest costs for the State.  However, a host of other problems contribute substantially to the overall cost.  Among teen mothers, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) alone costs the United States $1,227 million. Check the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center for data on costs for your state.

Option One:  Reach Children with Problems Early

    Nearly 8000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 start to drink each day in the USA. [SAMHSA]
     In 2007, 7.8 percent of people age 12 or older—an estimated 19.3 million people—needed treatment for an alcohol problem in the past year. [SAMHSA]
    18- to 20- year-olds have the highest prevalence of DSM-IV Alcohol Dependence [ NSDUH]
    5.5 percent of youth ages 12-17 meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohl abuse or dependence [NSDUH, SAMHSA]
    Annually 2,500 Ohioans, ages 12-20, are admitted for alcohol treatment [ ODADAS] { check with your single state agency for similar data for your state}
    As many as 300,000 fourth and fifth graders (3.7% of fourth graders and 4.6% of fifth graders) begin drinking alcohol before reaching the sixth grade [Pride Survey, 2009]. These students are between 9 and 11 years old.

  Option Two: Remove Access and Incentives 

    Alcohol use increases dramatically during adolescence. About 15% of 12 year olds have had a whole drink; by age 15, approximately 50 % of boys and girls have had a whole drink of alcohol; by age 21, approximately 90 percent have done so. [ NSDUH, SAMHSA]
    Underage drinkers account for 21.1 percent of all the alcohol consumed in Ohio. [?CASA, 2003]
     [??? look at the CASA report for your state data]
    A survey of over 6000 teenagers revealed : Teenagers usually get their alcohol from persons 21 or older. The second most common source for high school students is someone else under age 21, and the second most common source for 18- to 20-year-olds is buying it from a store, bar or restaurant (despite the fact that such sales are against the law).[APIS, NIAAA]
    76 percent of Ohio students in grades 9-12 have consumed alohcol. [YRBS] – You can check out your state data on the Links from the State Data Page.
    Research suggests that people who have expectations of more positive experiences form drinking tend to drink more that others and are at highest risk for excessive drinking. Children in general shift from a primary emphasis on the negative and adverse effects of drinking alcohol before age 9 to a primary emphasis on the positive and arousing effects of alchol by about age 13. [US Surgeon Genreal Call to Action, 2007]
    In 1998, States spent $81.3 billion – 13% of their budgets to deal with the substance abuse and addiction. For each dollar, 96 cents went to shovel up the wreckage of substance abuse and addiction and only 4 cents wne to prevent and treat it. [CASA, see their website for state by state data]

  Option Three: Help Children through Difficult Times in Development 

    Children need help growing up safe and healthy.
    Children who start to drink alcohol before the age of 15 are at great risk for short and long-term consequences, such as other substance abuse problems, risky sexual behavior, unintentional injuries, car crashes, and physical fights. [US Surgeon General Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, 2007]
     Adolescence isa time of heightened risk taking, independence seeking and experimentation, and alcohol has been shown to impair one’s ability to evaluate risk and reward when making decisions. [US surgeon General Call to Action, 2007]