Much research focuses on early age of first drink. Researchers usually call this early onset of drinking. (They ignore age at first intoxication.) Many report that age at first drink is linked with later drinking problems. But no one knows why this is true.
There are two obvious possibilities. One is that early onset of drinking somehow causes later problems. This assumption leads to policies to prevent young people from having that first drink.
The other is that beginning to drink at an early age results from early personality traits. For example, from thrill-seeking. By studying pre-schoolers, psychologists have been able to predict those who would later have alcohol-related problems. This was years before they ever tasted alcohol.
Researchers examined the link between age at first drink and specific behaviors. They were the following.
- Low academic performance.
- Physical fights.
- Injury in fights.
- Marijuana use.
- Smoking tobacco.
The study was based on a sample of 44,801 15-year-olds from 38 countries in North Ameria and Europe. The youth were in the Health Behavior of School-age Children cross-national study.
Researchers found a link between age at time of first drink and problem behaviors. But they only found it among those who had been intoxicated. It didn’t exist among those who had never been drunk.
The authors concluded that age of first drink is not a risk factor for problem behaviors at age 15. On the other hand, early age of intoxication is a risk factor.
Also they found no link between age at first drink and age at first intoxication.
Resources: Age at First Intoxication vs. Age at First Drink
Early Puberty Predicts Early Alcohol Drinking and Intoxication.
Does Beginning to Drink at an Early Age CAUSE Later Alcohol Abuse and Other Problems?
Early Onset of Drinking. What Research Says & What Anti-Alcohol Activists Say It Says
Genetics and Early Age of Drinking.
Early Onset of Drinking. Early First Drink of Alcohol) and Later Problems.
Kuntsche, E., et al. Not early drinking but early drunkenness is a risk factor for problem behaviours. Alco Clin Exper Res, 2013, 37(2), 308-314.