I came across your website while trying to find and compare alcohol abuse statistics between France and the US. Here is an excerpt of the paper I am writing (which is actually not a research paper, but it contains the excerpted story which you may find interesting):
As teenagers, my friends and I frequently broke the law for the thrill of doing so. We would often have an adult buy us alcohol, then go into the woods and drink excessively without parental supervision. The act of drinking itself was fun, and though none of us considered it morally wrong to consume alcohol, the fact that we knew we were doing something that by law we were not supposed to be doing made the parties even more fun.
Last September, I moved to France and lived there for three months. Within the first week, I found myself at a bar, having a beer with a 22 year old woman and her 16 year old sister. The teenager ordered her beer very casually, and was not asked for identification by the waiter. I was a bit taken aback by this, knowing from my own experience what it was like to drink alcohol illegally as a teenager, and how it finally felt to be able to drink it legally as an adult.
The conversation turned toward our different societies' perspectives on the consumption of alcohol. In France, one can legally drink alcohol in public by the age of 16, though the teenager told me that she had been drinking in bars for at least 2 years. She said that it is common for youngsters to start drinking wine with their parents at the dinner table by the age of 12, and that because most waiters don't validate the age of the person they are serving, it is not a big deal when they do start drinking in bars. Because it is not forbidden by the parents, or by the law to drink at home, and the laws about drinking in public are not effectively enforced, the thrill is removed from the act of breaking the law, and they learn to drink responsibly under the supervision of their parents.
Anyway, I was thinking after looking around your site and reflecting on my own experiences that perhaps the best way to curb teenage alcohol abuse would be to lower the drinking in public age, and to promote awareness in parents that they should be teaching their kids that it is normal to drink alcohol, as long as it is done responsibly.
Have a beer with your kids (without getting drunk), and show them by example that moderate alcohol consumption is not a big deal. Teenagers, almost by definition, usually want to do that which is forbidden to them but allowed to adults. Personally, I know that when I have a kid I will not forbid alcohol consumption, but I will discourage them from going to parties where alcohol is consumed. I would rather have my child drinking responsibly in our home than going to a party with a bunch of kids who were not taught to drink responsibly by their parents.
Just a thought.
Posted by permission.
Filed Under: Underage Drinking Prevention