Objective: During seventh grade, many adolescents initiate alcohol use yet school drop-out rates are still low. Therefore, this is an ideal period of adolescence to examine predictors of alcohol use. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the etiology of alcohol use among an understudied population: disadvantaged inner-city minority youths. Specifically, we attempted to develop as complete a model of predictors of alcohol use as possible from three domains: background characteristics, social influences to drink and individual characteristics.
Method: To explore alcohol use of youths who are living in poverty and are members of minority groups, New York City public schools from districts known to have predominantly minority student bodies with low socioeconomic status (SES) were identified. Self-reports of alcohol use and data concerning background, social environmental and individual characteristics hypothesized to promote drinking alcohol were collected from black and Hispanic seventh graders (N = 757).
Results: Logistic regression analyses indicated that social influences from friends, peers and parents predicted alcohol use. Most interestingly, the drinking status of the person the respondent most admired was related to drunkenness and future alcohol use. Individual characteristics, such as health-related knowledge concerning alcohol use and antidrinking attitudes, lowered the odds of drinking.
Conclusions: These findings imply that effective prevention programs targeting inner-city minority youths should provide students with an awareness of the social influences to drink, provide them with positive role models and correct misperceptions about the prevalence of drinking among friends and peers.