- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

Teens down as

much as boys

Teenage girls are drinking as much alcohol as teenage boys, but their mothers don’t realize it and often fail to discourage it, according to a new national survey by a distillers’ group.

The survey found 16 percent of girls ages 13 to 15 said they drink with friends, but only 5 percent of their mothers think their daughters are drinking. Both figures double when the daughters are 16 to 18. By the time girls are 19 to 21, 51 percent drink, but only 32 percent of their mothers realize it.

Paid for by the Century Council, an effort by distillers to combat drunken driving and underage drinking, the new survey questioned 496 daughters and 379 mothers of teenage girls, 322 of them matching. It found that 49 percent of mothers think teen drinking is acceptable under certain conditions and that most don’t realize the health risks stemming from the fact that girls metabolize alcohol differently than boys.

Thirty-eight percent of the mothers said they would permit their daughters to drink on special occasions, 21 percent said they found it OK for daughters to drink at home under parental supervision, and 20 percent said they regard drinking as a “natural part of growing up.”

Susan Molinari, a former congresswoman from New York who is chair of the Century Council and the mother of two daughters, said she found it alarming that many mothers are no longer saying, “Don’t drink,” but are instead telling their daughters, “If you drink, at least be safe.”

The council, along with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players’ Association and the Society for Women’s Health Research, are starting a national campaign, “Girl Talk,” to encourage mothers to talk to their daughters about the consequences of drinking.

They include alcohol poisoning and overdoses, pregnancy, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, weight gain or loss, mental health implications and suicide.

Girls have fewer enzymes to break down alcohol, so it stays in their bloodstream longer. Girls who don’t drink said they are afraid of drinking because they worry about losing control, making bad choices and embarrassing themselves. Mothers worry more about the dangers of drunken driving.

Anthony Wolf, a clinical psychologist who writes books on parenting, said that even though daughters may roll their eyes and complain about being lectured, “it’s important to have these conversations [about not drinking] because they want as much information as they can get. The survey shows that 71 percent of girls realize the health consequences are serious.”

Mr. Wolf said mothers should begin having conversations telling their daughters why they should not drink as early as 11 and continue into the early college years.

The survey found that mothers and daughters agree that girls drink to “fit in” or to be popular or because of “peer pressure.”

c Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service

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