Drinking prevention needed in grade school: study
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A significant number of children are already drinking by middle school, suggesting that prevention needs to start in the elementary grades, researchers conclude in a new report.
In their study of more than 4,000 sixth-graders at Chicago schools, 17 percent of the children had used alcohol in the past year. Those students who'd started drinking were also more likely than their peers to have a range of problems, such as getting into fights, shoplifting or getting into trouble at school.
The findings, reported in the journal Health Education and Behavior, suggest that alcohol prevention needs to start in grade school, researchers say.
And such prevention efforts should include parents, according to lead researcher Dr. Keryn Pasch, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.
One way to do that, she told Reuters Health, would be for school- based programs to include take-home assignments or other activities that involve parents.
The study included an ethnically diverse sample of sixth-graders at 61 Chicago schools; 713, or just over 17 percent, said they had drunk alcohol in the past year.
These children, Pasch and her colleagues found, were more likely than their peers to have a range of risk factors for early drinking -- such as delinquent or violent behavior, a lack of adult supervision out of school, and having friends who drank alcohol.
"I think it is important for parents to be aware that kids may start drinking at an early age, and that it is important to start discussions about alcohol use early," Pasch said.
One way to broach to topic, she suggested, is to look for "teachable moments," such as when drinking is portrayed on television.
It's also important, Pasch said, for parents to not only tell their children not to drink, but to also teach them how to refuse alcohol when it's offered to them.
SOURCE: Health Education and Behavior, online February 26, 2008.