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Prev Sci. 2007 Sep;8(3):192-205. Epub 2007 Jul 14.

Really underage drinkers: the epidemiology of children's alcohol use in the United States.

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Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Little attention has been paid to alcohol use by children aged 12 and younger. The present article summarizes findings on the prevalence of alcohol use from US national and statewide surveys of children in grades 6 and younger based on reports located in searches of the literature and the Internet. Four national surveys and seven statewide surveys of children's alcohol and drug use were located that present rates of lifetime sipping and tasting, lifetime experience of more than a sip, alcohol use in the past year, use in the past month, and use in the past week. Prevalence rates decrease with the level of involvement assessed. Alcohol use increases with age, doubling between grades four and six, with the largest jump in prevalence between grades five and six. At each grade level, boys are more likely to have used alcohol than girls. African-American children are nearly as likely as white and Hispanic children to have used alcohol. Over the past decade or so, the prevalence of both lifetime and current alcohol use has been declining in children. The failure to assess intensity of children's use hampers evaluation of the level of risk experienced by children. There is a need for ongoing nationwide surveillance of alcohol use in this population and for greater education of parents regarding the dangers of introducing children to alcohol use.

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