Alcoholism & Addiction

Adolescent Alcohol Use and the Environment

Alcohol is often the forbidden fruit for adolescents. Whether it is peer pressure, the perceived thrill of the indulgence or simple curiosity, individuals within this age bracket can find themselves involved in the use of a substance they are likely not ready to handle.

According to a new study featured in Science Daily, a combination of genetic and environmental factors can influence alcohol use and behavior problems among adolescents. The study found that socio-regional factors have a direct correlation with the effects of alcohol use later in life.

“In the past, research on genetic and environmental influences on behavior was often conducted in isolation,” explained Danielle Dick in Science Daily. Dick is an assistant professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Some scientists were interested in genetic effects, others in environmental effects. We now know that both genetic and environmental influences are important for most behavioral outcomes and our challenge is to understand how they interact,” added Dick.

According to researchers, certain environments appeared to encourage gene expression while others tended to constrain it. Females tended to have higher behavior problems if they were in an urban, relatively mobile population that offered a higher percentage of older adolescents. At the same time, those in a rural, stable and low-adolescent setting generally had rearing environment-influenced behavior problems.

Researchers suggest that girls may be more susceptible than boys to certain environmental influences. They suggest that perhaps rural females remain closer to their parents and under their influence and monitoring for longer than rural males. In addition, evidence from other studies indicates that behavior problems may be one of the first signs of an individual at increased susceptibility for developing alcohol problems.

One of the elements taken from this study is that genes are not destiny. The environment can be a key factor in whether or not an individual ever develops problems. At the same time, not everyone is equally predisposed to develop alcohol or behavior problems. But the current lifestyle and actions of a teen can suggest the potential for alcohol problems later on.

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