Best friends might play the biggest role in influencing when teens have their first sip of alcohol, new research shows.
In the study, having pals who drank and had access to booze was the most important factor in predicting when a kid started drinking — trumping a teen's own troublemaking tendencies and family history of alcoholism.
The reasearch team analyzed the age which kids had their first taste of booze against five variables: two separate measures of disruptive behavior, a family history of alcoholism, a measure of poor social skills and whether their best friends drank alcohol.
"When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don't get their first drinks from their family," Samuel Kuperman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. "They get their first drinks from their friends. They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it's easier for them to have that first drink."
Among teens who reported trying alcohol, nearly four in 10 said their best friends also drank, the survey found. "Even accounting for these other risk factors, having most best friends [who] drink doubles the risk for having a first whole drink," Kuperman told LiveScience.
Regardless of what's causing teens to drink, the researchers behind the new study say there's evidence that kids who try alcohol before age 15 are more likely to abuse it later on.
The study, detailed this month in the journal Pediatrics, was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.