Toward an empirical classification of adolescent drinking
Adolescent drinking is a major concern for this society. Previously, researchers studying adolescent alcohol use have focused on the frequency of alcohol consumption as the definitive measure in differentiating alcohol use from misuse. However, just as drinking serves many functions for adults, adolescent alcohol consumption has many purposes. A unique approach to differentiating problem drinking from normal adolescent alcohol use is made by identifying common patterns of alcohol consumption and examining their relationship to disordered behavior in adolescents. Normal adolescent development is marked by a reduction in parental dependence and an increase in the influence of peer groups as part of the process of identity formation. Experimentation and rebellion have been identified as key aspects of this period. At the same time, maladaptive behavior in adolescence is known to be related to a number of areas including low self esteem, problems with parents and inadequate peer relations. The link between alcohol consumption and such markers of maladaptive behavior in adolescence has not been adequately examined. More importantly, the role of alcohol consumption in the facilitation of both aspects of this developemental process has been grossly overlooked. A thorough understanding of adolescents' use of alcohol and successful identification of adolescents with alcohol related problems are most likely to result from examining alcohol consumption in the context of normal adolescent development and the known markers of troubled adolescence such as low self esteem and inadequate peer and parent relationships.