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Strategies to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking

Research has proven that a number of approaches are effective in reducing and preventing underage drinking, from legislative approaches such as environmental prevention to parental involvement. For more information about the current status of prevention policies and programs in your state, see the current reports and resources posted for your state on the State Resources page. Pay particular attention to the latest Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking for state data on underage drinking rates.

Environmental Prevention

Environmental prevention focuses on changing the environment in ways that make alcohol less available and appealing to young people. Some goals of environmental prevention are to change social norms or attitudes relating to the use of alcohol, to control the availability of alcohol, and to strengthen enforcement of laws and regulations governing its use.

Brief descriptions of several evidence-based environmental prevention approaches follow:1

Changing the environment to reduce alcohol availability and appeal

Parental Involvement

Parents have a significant influence on a child’s decisions about alcohol use, especially when parents create supportive and nurturing environments in which their children can make their own decisions. In fact, around 80 percent of adolescents feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol.

Parental attitudes toward underage drinking continue to influence a child’s decisions about alcohol use at college. In one study, college students whose parents had disapproved of underage drinking during their high school years were less likely to misuse alcohol during their college years, while students whose parents had allowed any alcohol use during high school drank significantly more and experienced significantly more negative consequences from alcohol use.

Learn more about parental involvement tips and resources at SAMHSA’s Talk. They Hear You. campaign.

1 These factsheets are based on information previously published in Imm, P., Chinman, M., Wandersman, A., Rosenbloom, D., Guckenburg, S., & Leis, R. (2007). Preventing Underage Drinking: Using Getting to Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to Achieve Results. RAND, No. TR-403-SAMHSA. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.