– Annie Prescott, Ph.D., psychologist
In recent decades, girls have been catching up to boys -- and even surpassing them -- in a whole host of categories: test scores, academic achievement, college enrollment, graduate degrees. But in one area, girls outdoing boys is not good news.
Who drinks more alcohol, girls or guys?
“I think girls drink more,” says Diane, 13.
“I think girls drink more,” says Matt, 16.
“I think teenage girls drink more,” says Chris, 15.
In fact, a growing number of studies, including a recent survey from Columbia University, show that girls are now drinking more than boys. But why?
“Girls drink more because they try to fit in more. They’re so worried about fitting in and everything,” says Ally, 13.
Experts say there is more pressure on girls than ever before to be good athletes, to get good grades, and, at the same time, to be popular, beautiful and sexy.
“I think because of this pressure, the girls find that alcohol lessons their inhibitions. It also represses their emotions, anxieties and fears about it,” says Annie Prescott, Ph.D., psychologist.
“They want the guys’ attention; they want to show them they are cool and stuff,” says Diane.
Experts say teen girls need to be busy with activities that reinforce their worth and help them create an identity separate from alcohol, sex and boys.
“Sports and church activities, music, art, dance … activities where there are some social groups that don’t promote this type of acting out,” says Prescott.
All the while, she says, parents need to watch closely.
“I’m talking about being a detective -- that you are following up with them. Are they actually where they say they’re going to be? So they know that they have to be accountable,” says Prescott.
Tips for Parents
According to J. Edward Hill, president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA), “The difference in female physiology means that teen girls feel greater impairment from alcohol and encounter alcohol-related problems faster, including brain damage, cancer, cardiac complications, and other medical disorders."
Drinking alcohol puts girls' health at risk in other ways, too.
Many girls lose their virginity while drunk; in one study of unplanned pregnancies in 14 -21 year olds, one third of the girls who had gotten pregnant had been drinking when they had sex – 91 percent of them reported that the sex was unplanned. (Parents: The Anti-Drug; Flanigan et al., 1990)
Nearly one quarter of sexually active teens and young adults say they have had unprotected sex because they were using alcohol or drugs at the time. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002) One in four drove a car after drinking or rode with a driver who had been drinking.
Moreover, alcohol's ability to reduce inhibitions can be a shortcut to girls who "feel enormous pressure to have sex." The push to be sexy often goes hand in hand with the pressure to drink. (The Christian Science Monitor)
People who begin drinking early in life run the risk of developing serious alcohol problems, including alcoholism, later in life. They also are at greater risk for a variety of adverse consequences, including risky sexual activity and poor performance in school. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)
Drinking alcohol is bad for your brain and your health, but kids who drink can decide to be successful at stopping. Caring adults can teach kids how to give and receive respect, take better care of themselves, and make better choices. Nemours Foundation
Parents: The Anti-Drug
Kaiser Family Foundation
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The Christian Science Monitor
National Institutes of Health (NIH)