Empowering Parents to Prevent Underage Drinking

Noted child behavioral expert James Lehman wrote, “Your kids watch you for a living. It’s their job; it’s what they do.”

Governor Gary R. Herbert believes parents play a key role in shaping their children’s attitudes toward alcohol. Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows parental disapproval of underage drinking is the number one reason youth choose not to drink.

As proof of that fact, Utah has been successfully involved in a seven-year ParentsEmpowered campaign aimed at eliminating underage drinking. However, with state sales of alcohol increasing each year, there’s an even greater need to prevent underage drinking.

In Utah, 59 percent of parents are unaware that binge drinking begins as early as the sixth grade.[i] As hard as it might be to believe, today’s children are drinking to get drunk.  New research shows the teen brain goes through dynamic changes during adolescence, and alcohol can seriously damage brain development: impairing memory, learning, and impulse control, sometimes permanently[ii].

Underage drinking also dramatically increases a child’s chance of becoming alcohol-dependent.  Statistically, 45 percent of teens who begin drinking before age 13 will become alcohol dependent; whereas only 7 percent of those who wait until the legal age of 21 to start.

Studies show that a child who makes it to age 21 without abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so. [iii]  It is vitally important for parents to understand that they have a lot of power right now, while their children are young.

Parents don’t have to do it alone. ParentsEmpowered campaign provides a menu of resources to help eliminate the likelihood children will drink.

For those involved with parenting a child, or associated with an organization that works with teens, take a look at the helpful resources at www.parentsempowered.org and get involved in this important campaign. Make your disapproval of underage drinking absolutely clear.


[i] Student Health And Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey – given bi-annually to more than 50,000 students in Utah public schools

[ii] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention website [http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/237145.pdf]

[iii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General