Study May Provide Clues to Alcohol Consumption and Female Sexual Victimization
Recent headlines have involved young girls being raped after drinking heavily at parties. There is no mistaking that the girl is the victim and should not be in any way blamed for the abuse she has endured. However, parents and teens may still benefit from understanding the connection between alcohol and risky sexual behaviors, and how a positive family environment may prevent a tragedy.
Parents should be aware of the connection between alcohol and risky sexual behaviors, as well as the connection between the presence of family conflict, depression and alcohol consumption. While there is not a neat line connecting all of these behaviors, there is reason to understand alcohol consumption as a behavior that has varying levels of negative consequences.
Among some of the relevant statistics:
- 15 percent of 16-year-olds admitted to drinking at least five drinks in one sitting on a somewhat regular basis, with the percentage growing to 22 with 18-year-olds
- 38 percent of rape victims were between the ages of 14-17
- When female students are asked about the circumstances surrounding a rape, 55 percent say that they had been drinking or using drugs at the time
- 70 percent of college females say that their experiences with sex occurred primarily under the influence of alcohol.
In addition to risky sexual behaviors, teen binge drinking is also associated with increased incidence of accidents, injuries, academic failure and other types of substance use.
Understanding how alcohol-related behaviors develop in teens is a valuable tool for parents hoping to help their children make good decisions. Responsible choices related to alcohol use could help kids avoid risky sexual behaviors and other impulsive decisions that could lead to injury or accident.
A study examined drinking behaviors among 886 12- to 14-year-olds, with 57 percent being female. The researchers conducted assessments at three points in order to identify predictors for heavy drinking by the age of 14.
The researchers sought to measure the impact of family conflict by having the teens rate the strength of a statement such as, “We argue about the same things in my family over and over again.” In addition, the researchers measured the symptoms of depression among the teen participants and asked the teens about alcohol-related behaviors.
The researchers found that family conflict at the age of 12 does not predict heavy drinking at age 14. However, family conflict at age 12 predicted depression at age 13. The association was stronger for girls.
Depression at age 13 was a reliable predictor for heavy drinking at age 14. In this case, too, the association was much stronger for girls.
Events happen in succession: family conflict at age 12 predicts depression symptoms by the time a teen reaches the age of 13, when then predict heavy drinking and all its negative consequences by the time the teen is 14.
The research does not provide an explanation for the stronger connection between family conflict, depression and heavy drinking in girls. However, it may be that a more relationship-focused girl would be more impacted by family conflict than a boy.
Parents can implement positive experiences for their families that build up the relationships within the family and may counter the impact of family conflict. Engaging in regular family dinners or other family traditions may boost the relationships between the children and parents and may allow for conversations about substance use to occur in a natural, comfortable setting.