Objective: Few studies have examined psychological variables related to changes in drinking patterns from light experimentation with alcohol to heavy episodic drinking in early and middle adolescence. The present study examined parental and peer influences, gender and grade level as predictors of such changes in adolescent alcohol consumption. Method: Approximately 1,420 light drinkers were analyzed from Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Heavy episodic drinking activity was assessed 1 year later. Results: Gender differences in transitions to heavy episodic drinking were observed, with males being more likely than females to make a transition. Parent parameter setting and communication variables, as well as peer variables at different grade levels, buffered these gender differences. Conclusions: Adolescents who are light experimenters represent a high-risk group as a consequence of their initial consumption tendencies. Some of these adolescents graduated beyond simple experimentation and moved into patterns of consumption that could be considered dangerous. Our analyses implicated an array of parental-based buffers: parent involvement in the adolescent's life, development of good communication patterns and expressions of warmth and affection. Minimizing associations with peers who consume alcohol may also have a buffering effect. There was evidence that these buffers may dampen gender differences not so much by affecting female drinking tendencies as by keeping males at reduced levels of alcohol consumption comparable to those of females.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)