Preventing Youth Alcohol Use

Two girls sitting on a bench talkingRisk and Protective Factors

Young people use alcohol for many reasons. Many factors come into play.1 Families cannot do much about some factors—like how laws are enforced, pricing, advertising, or community norms. Parent can, however, support good policies and laws.2

Families play big roles in reducing risks and enhancing protective factors. Protective factors are strengths that a family already has.

Risk Factors for Youth Alcohol Use3

Young people are MORE likely to drink when . . .

  • Family members drink.
  • Parents think it is okay for teens to drink at home. Some parents mistakenly believe supervised drinking will help kids be responsible with alcohol.
  • Friends drink or use other drugs.
  • The youth is impulsive, likes to take risks, or has a high tolerance for alcohol.
  • The youth thinks alcohol has benefits, such as helping a person relax.
  • Family history includes alcoholism, violence, or depression.
  • The youth has been maltreated or neglected.
  • The young person’s mother drank while pregnant.
  • The youth smokes or uses other drugs.

Protective Factors for Youth Alcohol Use4

Young people are LESS likely to drink when . . .

  • Parents disapprove of underage drinking, especially early use.
  • Friends are substance free.
  • Youth can manage their emotions and behaviors.
  • Youth focus on the bad results of drinking.
  • Youth have many developmental assets, or key strengths and supports in their lives.5
  • Parents show a balance of expressing care, providing support, and challenging growth.
  • The family is fairly free of conflict.
  • Youth does well in school and other activities.

Next Steps

  • Take the quiz to examine the ways you address alcohol and tobacco use in your family.
  • Learn about preventing youth tobacco use.

Research Sources

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking 2013. Washington, DC: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

2. Bonnie, R. J., & O'Connell, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking 2013. Washington, DC: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Bonnie, R. J., & O'Connell, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking 2013. Washington, DC: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Bonnie, R. J., & O'Connell, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

5. Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Sesma, A., Jr. (2004, March). Tapping the power of community: The potential of asset building to strengthen substance abuse prevention efforts. Search Institute Insights & Evidence 2(1), 1-14.