I am thinking about a mother I met who was so distraught when she heard her 18 year old son had drank alcohol for the first time the night before. She was disappointed in him. Her expectation of him was to not drink alcohol until the legal age of 21. He fell short of her expectation. She believed her prevention efforts as a parent failed.
This mother’s experience reminds me of how we sometimes measure our success in prevention. If our kids drink alcohol before age 21, we see it as a failure. If our kids wait until the age of 21 or later, we see it as success. This “all or nothing” mentality with substance use prevention is common.
But, is our success in prevention really “all or nothing?”
Research shows that kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the legal age of 21.