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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Feb;153(2):180-3.

Beach week: a high school graduation rite of passage for sun, sand, suds, and sex.

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Department of Pediatrics, Inova Hospital for Children, Falls Church, VA, USA.



Every year, thousands of suburban high school graduates from mid Atlantic states flock to nearby coastal beaches for a long-anticipated rite of passage known as "beach week." Sand, sun, and sea, and also smoking, binge drinking, drugs, and sex, are reported to be dominant themes.


To document risk-taking behaviors by girls during beach week.


Fifty-nine female suburban high school graduates who attended beach week in 1996 volunteered to fill out a confidential printed survey. Twenty-five girls (42%) completed the survey during a typical beach week party. Their activities were verified on site by a peer, recommended by her grade advisor for her integrity and popularity. Breath alcohol values were obtained at entry and departure from the party. The remaining 34 girls completed the supervised survey 2 to 3 months later.


Daily cigarette smoking (54%), daily drunkenness (75%), and sex (46%) were the norm among respondents of our survey. Few reported first-time sex (n = 4) or drug use (n = 2). Abstinence from drugs (67%) and sex (55%) was not unusual but only 12% abstained from getting drunk. Sixteen girls (64%) reported that they drank 8 or more beers/wine during a typical beach week party. By departure from the party, 15 girls had breath alcohol values of 0.017 mmol/L or greater (reference range, <21.7 mmol/L), and 8 additional girls had breath alcohol values of 0.01 mmol/L to 0.015 mmol/L. Fifteen percent of the 59 reported injuries or illness were related to alcohol or drugs.


Most respondents enjoyed beach week but a large percentage engaged in serious risk-taking behaviors.

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