A few months ago the American Medical Association called on the television industry to stop airing alcohol commercials to youth. On average, children now try alcohol for the first time at the age of 12 , said the AMA, and nearly 20 per cent of 12 to 20-year-olds report binge drinking. Yet two decades of scientific research shows that alcohol takes a heavier toll on these young brains than on other age groups, and may cause irreversible damage. Beside appealing to the media’s sense of responsibility — an appeal that has so far fallen on deaf ears — the AMA advocated increased taxes on alcohol, which, it says, has proved very effective in reducing teenage alcohol abuse.
Also very effective, according to an analysis by the Family Research council, is growing up in an intact family, especially one that worships regularly. Data on 16,000 youths from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that 22.4 per cent of youths in grades 7 to 12 who live with both biological parents and worship at least monthly have abused alcohol — which is quite bad enough. At the other end of the spectrum, however, 41.2 per cent of adolescents who worship less than monthly and come from single-parent or blended families have abused alcohol. In between are those in non-intact families who worship at least monthly (24.5 per cent) and those who live with both biological parents and worship less than monthly (33.4 per cent).
Other studies support the trend of these findings, says FRC’s Patrick Fagan. A British study, for example, found that students who did not attend religious services were more than twice as likely to use alcohol regularly compared with those who did attend (68.3 per cent v 31.4 per cent). Intact families also reduced alcohol use, although not by as much as religion. But we are not likely to hear the AMA advocating for church attendance and against divorce. ~ FRC, Mapping America No. 18: Religious Attendance, Family Structure, and Drinking