And while the problem is widespread, certain American kids are more likely than others to participate. In particular, experts say economic privilege is a factor.
“There are some studies that show that a lot of kids who grow up in affluent suburban communities grow up in communities where the adults around them drink a lot. And they’re going to model that behavior,” explains Dr. Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University. “They also may have access to alcohol from the alcohol that their parents have purchased and have at home. So, you know, we often think that money and privilege is a protective condition. But I think in this case, it may be associated with actually more dangerous behavior.”
“They have access to money,” concurs Julie Fenn, a clinical social worker in the Massachusetts public school system. “In households where two parents have college degrees or secondary degrees beyond that, there’s a higher rate of alcohol use among kids. … Parents who are highly educated will think their kids will never do it. Or they’re at work or traveling and kids are left alone more, or aren’t supervised as closely. Then you do see higher rates of alcohol abuse. You can see that nationally in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System — communities that are of higher socioeconomic status are at the higher end of that.”