The halls of every middle school are filled with teenagers looking to find themselves, express themselves and fit in with the crowd. But it’s what happens at home, at night, that can lead to some of the problems those teens may put on display.
Seventh-graders who are exposed to alcohol ads on television - and who say they like the ads - may experience more severe problems related to drinking alcohol later in their adolescence, according to a study published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics.
The study Researchers at the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University in California hypothesized that “adolescents who like alcohol advertisements will be more likely to elaborate on the content of the ads (e.g., imagine themselves in the scene), and as a result, they will be more likely to be persuaded to try the product.”
As consenting adult consumers, the more appealing an advertised product is, the more likely it will be purchased. Secondly – drinking is oftentimes thought of as cool, rebellious – sometimes even an “adult” thing to do. These two notions, taken together, can be a recipe for problems when it comes to children and alcohol. Participants were recruited from 23 randomly-selected public middle schools in Los Angeles County.
“These items,” explain the authors, “measure an affective or emotional reaction to alcohol ads that has been useful in both the study of alcohol advertising and by the advertising industry in general to estimate the potential effectiveness of advertising copy.” Results “Exposure to advertising was found to have a significant correlation with alcohol use, particularly among girls,” the study concludes. “Liking the ads was connected with alcohol-related problems (defined as not being able to do homework, getting into fights, neglecting responsibilities, or causing someone shame or embarrassment), particularly in boys. For both boys and girls, the more they were exposed to the ads and liked them, the more their alcohol use grew from seventh to 10th grade.”
That, of course, leads to a greater potential for alcohol-related problems later on. “Efforts are warranted to increase the proportion of physicians who follow professional guidelines to screen and counsel adolescents about unhealthy alcohol use and behaviors that pose health risks,” conclude the study’s authors.