Dublin: BREAKING the SILENCE: 10: ‘The Drink In Babies Bottle’

12 Feb

Drink In the Babies Bottle:

By J. P. Anderson ©

This data may assist the Minister for Children and the Committee he proposes to establish in order to discover – ‘Why Children Drink Alcohol’ in his quest;

Early formations of knowledge structures about the concepts of alcohol use are emerging from children during their pre-school (aged 3 to 5) years and furthermore; parental drinking practices are associated with these early formative beliefs.

Studies discovered that there was a higher rate of beverage identification among children of pre-school age, which had parents who were heavy drinkers. These children, were able to correctly identify a large number of alcohol beverages, (e, g; beer, wine, spirits) and to attribute heavier alcohol use to adult men, rather than women.

The acquiring and elaboration of knowledge structures about alcohol use by children was also indicated with regard to the children’s stated intentions to drink alcohol, with a higher percentage of older children indicating that they intended to use alcohol in the future. Alcohol expectancies have been related to higher levels of alcohol consumption, and subsequent treatment outcome variables, (e, g; length of stay in hospital, and relapse probability) among adolescents and adults, and thus, their early origins and development in children are important. Findings for alcohol expectancies among school children, indicates increasingly positive alcohol expectancies across grade levels, with major increases between the third and fourth grades, (8 and 9 year-olds in the USA). That is, by the fourth grade, children tended to believe that the use of alcohol results in positive outcomes, such as higher levels of acceptance and liking by peers, and being in a good mood with positive feelings about ones-self.

These positive alcohol expectancies among fourth-graders correspond with findings that at least 25% of fourth graders reported feeling at least some peer pressure to consume alcoholic beverages. This ’some level’ of peer pressure to consume alcohol increased to approximately 60% amongst seventh-graders. This alcohol use, statistics indicate that by their senior year of high-school, most adolescents will have used alcohol; over 60% will have been drunk and over a quarter will have engaged in binge-drinking. Open parent-child communication about alcohol and drug use and clear guidelines about (use/non-use) appear to be some deterrents of alcohol and drug use among adolescents. Some have viewed the onset of such early alcohol use by children as a symptom of a broader range of childhood problems, behaviours reflective of aberrant or deviant prone adolescents. These adolescents are proposed to have difficulties not only with the early onset of alcohol use, but also with poor school performance, higher use of illicit substances, higher delinquency activity, more deviant peers and more troubled family relations. Furthermore, the parents of such adolescents use alcohol and other substances more frequently and are not disapproving of alcohol and substance use by their off-springs, as are parents of adolescents who abstain from or only experiment with alcohol use. The risk factors for adolescent drinking behaviour, do not occur in a vacuum, but are often highly inter-related. That is, often adolescents may be at risk, not simply because of one factor, but due to the co-occurrence of several such factors.

Three major problem areas have been consistently identified among adolescents who drink alcohol, representing major social and personal difficulties that may be closely associated with the use of alcohol amongst this group, the areas refer to; adverse social consequences associated with the consumption of alcohol and identifies problems at home, at school, with peers or with the authorities. Not surprisingly, higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with higher levels of alcohol-related problems.

The second alcohol-related problem area refers to dependency symptoms, these symptoms refer to behaviours that we identify with the progressive disease process of alcoholism; the persistent manifestations of these behaviours suggest that professional assistance is advisable.

The third alcohol-related problem area refers to escapist drinking coping motives, that is, when some adolescents feel distressed, due, for example, to conflict with parents or peers or to an upcoming school exam, (self-medicating).

If the alcohol consumption is at very high levels, it may actually undermine the successful resolution of the conflict by increasing negative mood states, thus undermining constructive and thoughtful alternatives. Pharmacologically alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The initial consumption of alcohol contributes to the suppression, or ‘disinhibinition’ of some behaviours, and this ’disinhibitition’ is often experienced positively with regard to mood. That is, it is experienced as the ’freeing-up’ of felt tensions. However, after a period of time, when the alcohol is diluted via metabolic processes, the second phase emerges, which consist of a downward spiralling associated with more negative mood-states. Hence, alcohol use may provide temporary relief from the stresses of adolescence, but it does little to resolve the causes of the stress and may in fact contribute to dysfunctional (avoidance) coping processes. Homicide and suicide are highly associated with the use of alcohol among adolescents and alcohol has been found in high concentrations among adolescents who have completed suicide.

Alcohol use has often been referred to as ’the gateway’ substance, preceding the use of cannabis and other substances, (e, g; cocaine, heroin). Thus, heavier alcohol use during adolescence may be symptomatic or even prognostic, of a range of current and potentially hazardous behaviours amongst adolescents. Higher levels of adolescent alcohol use have also been associated with a number of other adverse health-related outcomes, including sexual precocity, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including, human immune-deficiency virus, (HIV) infection, poor school performance and school dropout. There are a small, but quite significant, number of adolescents who have quite severe problems with alcohol use and meet the clinical criteria for an alcohol disorder. The children and adolescents, who meet these criteria for an alcohol disorder, typically manifest persistent, high-volume drinking-and pervasive adverse social consequences and dependency symptoms. Furthermore, these children typically have a history of childhood behaviour problems, (e, g; conduct disorder difficulties, attention-al deficits), long-term troubled family relations, and a pattern of coexisting substance abuse, (e, g; cannabis or cocaine abuse).

Higher levels of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among children and adolescents are also associated with a range other deleterious behaviours that are hazardous to the health and well-being of youngsters. The three major causes of adolescent mortality-accidents (e, g; automobile, boating), homicide and suicide are highly associated with the use of alcohol among adolescents. Higher levels of alcohol and other substance use have been associated with higher levels of adolescent suicide ideation, (I, e; thinking about committing suicide), and suicide attempts. Understanding what factors predict alcohol use among children and adolescents-factors that increase the expectation (or probability) that children or adolescents will use or abuse alcohol is referred to as RISK FACTORS. ©

Risk Factors:

Family Government:

has been traditionally been controlled by men, also generally the authors of domestic violence-which in many industrially advanced countries including the USA and Ireland has assumed epidemic proportions.

Family factors associated with increased risk for adolescent alcohol use, include, the drinking practices of other family members (e, g; parents and siblings), marital conflict, poor family management practices- (e, g; failure to monitor children as to where they are, and who they are with etc). Harsh (physically abusive) discipline, physical or sexual abuse, and the lack of a warm, open, nurturing relationship with parents. In brief- highly troubled family relationships serve as a springboard for children and adolescents to engage in higher levels of alcohol-use and other problem behaviours (e, g; delinquency).

Peer factors,

are perhaps the single most highly associated risk factors for adolescent alcohol use. Peer-selection processes are not random, but rather reflect a tendency for adolescents to select friends and peers according to similarities regarding attitudes, values and behaviours. Peer groups are frequently identifiable, contingent on the shared orientation of constituent members. Those peers engaged in alcohol and drugs are referred to by their ’street title’ as ‘heads’.

The friends and peer context is especially important during adolescence to foster a personal identity or sense-of-self, and foster behaviours (e, g; pro-social skills) that are important in young adulthood. The engagement by some adolescents in deviant peer networks may undermine important pro-social skills training and contribute to an alienated sense-of-self, as well fostering more serious involvement in alcohol and drug use and other deviant behaviours.

Social and community factors. Youthful drinking behaviour may be fostered via media sources (e, g; T.V. and magazine commercials, movies and adolescent societal hero/s, (e, g; athletes, rock-stars), that may explicitly or implicitly convey a message that alcohol consumption is associated with positively valued characteristics (e, g; popularity with friends). Such societal media images are further fostered by the absence of serious enforcement of established legal-age standards; enacted to prevent under-age drinking. Stiff legal penalties for adolescents are often associated with the use, and especially the sale of substances identified as illegal for adult use (e, g; cannabis, cocaine).

Nonetheless, alcohol (which is a legal substance for adults, but illegal for adolescents) use by teenagers is not likely to meet with legal enforcement, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a car crash. The absence of legal enforcement of the laws regarding underage drinking may contribute in no small way, to an atmosphere of implicit tolerance of alcohol use by teenagers. Easy availability is another community factor, which has serious implications regarding the cause and early onset of alcohol use and abuse by adolescents.

 Second level There are:

students who work part-time to finance a social life are severely disadvantaged when it comes to examinations, as their performance is reduced considerably as a survey carried out in a County Meath secondary school discovered. Revealing that senior cycle students in the school are engaging in part-time work to buy alcohol. If the trend is reflected nationwide, it points to a very serious situation in Ireland’s second level schools. The key findings of the survey were: That 45% spent most of their wages on alcohol. 60% had reduced time for school homework. 54% suffered from fatigue. 40% worked between 10 and 19 hours a week and 12% worked more than 20 hours weekly.

an estimated 95,000 alcoholics in Ireland and also an estimated 150,000 drinkers under the legal drinking age of 18 year old.

To perceive the most extreme of alcohol problems, alcoholism as a disease, requires a kind of mental-health viewpoint not universal in the medical profession or with welfare agencies, to say nothing of the lay public. It is a deviant behaviour, and as such it is seen by many as immorality, weakness of will, perversity, or a bad habit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and others, no longer accept its description as a disease. Causes attributed as illness of mind, offered as being caused by drinking, actually predate the onset of alcoholism and addiction to other substances (drugs).

Experiments involving groups and the effects of alcohol on the emotional behaviour of individuals drinking together have been conducted by the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies. The limited number of studies to date report, increases in aggressive behaviour, is a sexual content of fantasise, and emotionality of behaviour generally. The alcoholic has not developed much by the way of ego-defences, other than denial, and that he has weak sexual drives, his affectionate bind being largely with alcohol. There are some countries, for example, Sweden and Norway, in which the supervision and rehabilitation of alcoholics is compulsory under law, while in most countries treatment is more-or-less undertaken on a voluntary basis. It has been shown that among alcoholics, the suicide rate is close to seventy times greater than in the population at large, and attempted suicide is also increases by about the same factor; moreover, the vast majority of alcoholics who either achieve suicide or make a non-fatal suicidal act, at the time they do the act, they have in fact got alcohol circulating in their blood. About 5% of drinkers form a dependency on alcohol.

J.P. Anderson©2006.

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