Thursday, October 14, 2010

The European Model

The "European Model" of alcohol use in the home is a frequently debated topic among parents and prevention educators. Many parents struggle with the issue of whether to let their adolescents drink at home. This model is also used as an argument in the debate on lowering the drinking age to 19 here in the United States.

For those who choose to follow the "European model", despite the legal ramifications,
it often boils down to the perception that European countries, like France, have everything figured out. The argument goes like this:
  • Their teens can drink— ours cannot.
  • Their teens exercise moderation —ours drink to get drunk.
Ergo, if we let our teens drink — at least at home — they will learn to drink in moderation like the European kids.

Even if the logic works in a weird way, the basic premise is flawed. The perception that European cultures, in general, have this problem under control is simply inaccurate.

The European Union (EU) recently commissioned a report on alcohol use among its 25 member states. The report was released last month — June, 2006.*

Among EU members as a collective, the average age of first drink was 12.5 and the average age of first drunkenness was 14.

In Denmark, 70% of 15 year olds were drunk at least twice in the year before the data were collected.

Our kids look like teetotalers by comparison. In the 2005 Monitoring the Future Study, 34% of 10th graders in America reported being drunk at least once in the previous year.

Ultimately, each parent or guardian must decide whether they will allow their kids to drink at home. Correcting the misperception that the Europeans have figured out how to do things better might help in the decision making process. published a research article in their newsletter earlier this week, titled: "Rise in Drunkenness Among Eastern European Teens" You can read the full article here.

*To download the .pdf version of "Should Parents Follow the European Model" click here.

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