Teaching Responsible Drinking Increases Rebellion?

Those groups and societies in which young people are taught about responsible drinking from an early age tend to have fewer alcohol-related problems than those who do not. 1

It’s important to note that teaching responsible drinking doesn’t require young people to drink any more than teaching civics requires them to run for office or vote for president. We teach civics to prepare young people to assume civic responsibilities as adults. And if we drink and expect that our children might choose to drink as adults, teaching our young people about responsible drinking will prepare them for life in a predominately drinking society. 2

On the other hand, young people raised in abstinent environments (for example, in religions that prohibit the consumption of alcohol beverages), and don’t learn about responsible drinking are at high risk of drinking-related problems if they choose to drink as adults. Research has
repeatedly demonstrated this fact. 3

Research has also clearly demonstrated that raising the legal drinking age increased “youth rebellion and interest in alcohol” among those for whom drinking became illegal. 4 Not surprisingly, the National Academy of Sciences has pointed out that its extremely difficult to convince young people that they should not drink until their 21st birthday but that it’s acceptable on that day and afterward. 5

Youth hostility toward what they consider a humiliating and demeaning law is especially strong among adults age 18, 19 and 20 who otherwise enjoy all the other rights enjoyed by legal adulthood.

However, without presenting any evidence or logic whatsoever, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asserts that teaching responsible drinking “heightens youth rebellion and interest in alcohol.” 6 To the contrary, all the evidence and logic suggest otherwise.


  • 1. Heath, Dwight. International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995.
  • 2. Hanson, David J. Alcohol Education: What We Must Do. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.
  • 3. Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
  • 4. Engs, Ruth C, and Hanson, David J. Reactance theory: a test with collegiate drinking. Psychological Reports, 1989, 89(3), 1083-1086.
  • 5. National Academy of Sciences. National Institute of Medicine. Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
  • 6. Center for Science and the Public Interest. CSPI’s NAS Talking Points. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest Alcohol Policies Project, 9-4-03.