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Teens' Choice To Drink

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Article Summery

Beyond Invulnerability: The Importance of Benefits in Adolescents' Decision to Drink Alcohol

Introduction: Many things affect the choice of an adolescent to drink alcohol. It is thought that this particular age group thinks that they are not vulnerable to the risks involved with drinking alcohol. Studies in this area have resulted in mixed conclusions; some support the idea of adolescent invulnerability others do not. Intervention programs seem to work better if they are aimed at reducing risk taking behaviors than helping an adolescent realize their true invulnerability (in fact vulnerability). Older adolescents seem to be more likely to participate in risky behavior because of positive outcomes of previous risky behavior. This experiment is to find out how adolescents perceive the benefits of risky behavior and how the perceived benefits motivate risky behavior. Five main questions will be discussed:

1. How do individuals perceive both the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol?

2. How do risk and benefit perceptions differ across age group?

3. Experience differs with age, so how do risk and benefit perceptions differ by experience?

4. Do risk and benefit perceptions predict drinking and smoking 6 months later?

5. What is the relative contribution of perceived benefits (or perceived risks) in predicting risk taking behavior?

This article is about a longitudinal study, but only focuses on the last two (of three) experiments which were spaced 6 months apart.

Methods: The sample for this experiment is taken from fifth, seventh and ninth graders in Northern California. The participants were chosen by one of two methods mail based or classroom based. The mail method (letters were sent to the home) recruited 89 fifth graders, 130 seventh graders and 58 ninth graders. The classroom method (information was given to students at school) resulted in 36 fifth graders, 18 seventh graders and 102 ninth graders. Participants were given surveys to complete (and later compensated with $$). The answers on the surveys were measured in a few different ways. An individual's benefit versus risk perception was measured by having the participants fill in a certain probability (percent) that a benefit or risk will happen as a result of a risky behavior. To measure a participants' previous experience with benefits or risk they were asked yes or no questions, for example, have you ever liked the buzz you got from drinking alcohol? Or have you ever gotten sick from drinking alcohol? An individual's experience with drinking was also measured by a 5 point Likert scale, participants could chose any point on a range from none to more than 10 times to answer the questions how many times have they drunk alcohol and how many times have they have had six or more drinks. Regarding cigarettes the participants were asked if they had ever smoked a cigarette in their entire life (yes or no) and on the second experiment they were asked if they had smoked more than one in the last six months (yes or no).

Results & Discussion: Many different factors were being measured. The experimenters checked for correlations between experience and age, individual's perception and their behavior, alcohol use and cigarette use. It is concluded that adolescents with more experience drinking alcohol perceive benefits to be more likely and the risks less likely. The perceived benefits definitely resulted in the teen's actual alcohol drinking behavior. Perceived benefits are seen (by the adolescents) as more important than the risks of drinking. Out of the participates who had drunk alcohol before most of them reported having positive outcomes, according to positive reinforcement, this would make it more likely for them to drink again and



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