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Preventing Underage Drinking in Young Women and Girls

When it comes to preventing underage drinking in youth, role models and model programs and services can play a vital part. This is especially true for prevention efforts geared towards females. Programs that provide girls with positive female role models may improve the effectiveness of the underage drinking prevention message.

Alcohol affects women differently

Women feel the effects of alcohol faster and longer than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol.. Women’s body structures and chemistries cause them to absorb more alcohol, and the alcohol takes longer to break down and be removed from their bodies. These differences make women more vulnerable to alcohol’s long-term effects on their health.

Reality check: Girls are starting younger, drinking more

A Centers for Disease Control study showed that among ninth grade girls, 59 percent reported that they have had at least one drink during their lifetime. The 2015 Report to Congress found a troubling erosion of the traditional gap between underage males and females in binge drinking. This gap is disappearing as females’ drinking practices converge with those of males.

Their futures depend on what happens now

Parents are a powerful influence in the lives of their teen girls. They need to be tuned in to their daughters’ moods and mental health needs, which can increase their risk for alcohol use. Keeping the lines of communication open, recognizing and addressing stress early, supporting healthy decisions, and getting help immediately if they suspect alcohol use are key steps parents can take in helping girls through the teen years of rapid growth, exploration, and risk taking.

What Can Parents Do?

The main reason most children choose not to drink is because their parents talk to them about it early. Studies have shown that it is important to:

  • Talk early and often with children and teens about your concerns—and theirs—about alcohol. Adolescents who know their parents’ opinions about youth drinking are more likely to fall in line with their expectations.
  • Establish policies early on, and be consistent in setting expectations and enforcing rules. Adolescents do feel that parents should have a say in decisions about drinking, and they maintain this deference to parental authority as long as they perceive the message to be legitimate—consistency is central to legitimacy.
  • Work with other parents to monitor where kids are gathering and what they are doing. Being involved in the lives of adolescents is key to keeping them safe.
  • Work in and with the community to promote dialogue about underage drinking and the creation and implementation of action steps to address it.
  • Be aware of your State’s laws about providing alcohol to your own children.
  • Never provide alcohol to someone else’s child.

Additional Resources for Women, Girls and Mothers:

  • Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being Report
    This report presents selected indicators of women’s social and economic well-being currently and over time.
  • White Bison Daughters of Tradition
    Daughters of Tradition is a prevention education program for Native American girls that gives adults who work with teens and preteens the traditional knowledge to prepare daughters to become healthy teens. The program was developed based on shared teachings from The Elders and Clan Mothers from many different Tribes.
  • GirlsHealth.gov
    This website provides interactive activities on underage drinking as well as facts and tips for young girls on how alcohol affects them differently than boys.