Two out of five second-graders have tasted alcohol, a number that shoots up to six out of ten for 12-year-olds, according to a study of one Pennsylvania county recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers found adolescent experiences with alcohol to be “surprisingly widespread,” writing in the report that tasting alcohol was common for 12-year-old subjects, and nearly universal–96 percent–among 18-year-olds.
“A quarter of the sample drank before age 15 years,” the researchers wrote. “Experience of intoxication increased through adolescence, even among those who had ever consumed just three to four drinks on an occasion.”
The longitudinal study involved more than 450 Allegheny County children who ranged in age from eight to 10. Alcohol use varied significantly by race. Some 44 percent of white children reported sipping alcohol around the age of 8, compared with 18 percent of black children. As subjects grew up, the trend continued. Just 36 percent of 11-year-old black children were “light drinkers” compared to 57 percent of white youth.
Researchers placed children in three categories: abstainers, sippers/light drinkers and drinkers who have experienced drunkenness.
“At ages 13.5-15.5, drinkers in the latter class reported drunkenness with just three to four drinks per occasion,” the report concluded. “By age 18 years, sippers/light drinkers comprised 55 percent of the sample and drinkers with drunkenness comprised 38 percent.”