Q: What objective evidence is there that absolute prohibitions against alcohol in the home reduce teenage drinking vs. a European approach of drinking moderate amounts, such as wine at dinner? Secondly, how do researches reliably measure rates of teenage drinking? Don’t most substance abusers lie about their consumption, even to themselves?
A: Surveys of this kind generally rely on self-report. They are typically anonymous, which tends to increase the respondents’ honesty. That said there is no guarantee that they will be honest, as you point out. Still the results both in the U.S. and Europe consistently reflect disturbing rates of alcohol use by adolescents.
In terms of European drinking patterns, there has been increasing concern in European nations regarding the dangers of alcohol consumption. According to a recent study, “while 266 million adults drink alcohol at relatively lower risk levels, over 58 million adults (15%) drink more than this (i.e. 5 or more drinks at one time), including 20 million (6%) drinking at even more harmful levels. 23 million Europeans (5% of men, 1% of women) are dependent on alcohol” (Anderson, P., and Baumberg, B. 2006. Alcohol in Europe. A public health perspective).
The truth is that we would all be better off if we refrained from alcohol use altogether.
While there are reports that moderate alcohol consumption provides some health benefits, using that time to exercise would be far healthier. The best thing we can do for our children is model abstinence where drinking is concerned.