Twelve-year-old Jenna rides her bike to and from school most days. Her route takes her past a large billboard advertising a popular malt liquor.
Fourteen-year-old Joshua loves to watch basketball on television. During a typical game, he sees many beer commercials.
At 15, Sarah enjoys going to movies with friends. Many of the movies she has seen lately include scenes of adults drinking alcohol with dinner and at parties. A recent favorite showed teenagers getting into a nightclub using fake identification.
A favorite T-shirt for 16-year-old Sam says, “I’m trying to graduate with a 4.0 … blood alcohol level.” His best friend’s favorite sports shirt has an advertisement for a local bar on the back and “start drinking at 9 a.m. … it’s gotta be happy hour somewhere” on the front.
Following the homecoming dance, 17-year-old Lynne attends an all-night party at a friend’s home. The parents greet the guests as they arrive and take their car keys because they are serving beer. They prefer that their children and their friends drink at their home in a “safe environment” since they assume that their children will be drinking anyway.
After moving his belongings into his college dormitory and bidding his parents farewell, 19-year-old Jeremy attends an off-campus “welcome party” with a new acquaintance. He learns a lot on his first night on campus—how to play a drinking game, where to get a fake ID (identification), and which bars have happy hours on Thursdays.
by age 12, among drinkers as well as among those who have never consumed alcohol (Christiansen et al., 1982; Jones et al., 2001). Although it is always difficult to know if individuals can accurately report the reasons for their behavior, including drinking (see Nisbett and Wilson, 1977), both adolescents and adults indicate that alcohol is an important ingredient in social interactions, allowing them to lower their inhibitions and feel more relaxed in social situations (Jones et al., 2001; Wood et al., 1992). Other reasons given for drinking include reducing tension, fostering courage, reducing worry, increasing a sense of power, and causing cognitive and behavioral impairment (Prendergast, 1994). In addition, most individuals assign some costs to drinking, as well, which are discussed later in this chapter.
According to models such as the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), social cognitive theory (e.g., Bandura, 1986), and alcohol expectancy theory (e.g., Goldman et al., 1991; Leigh, 1989), alcohol use can be largely explained by the alcohol-related expectancies for both positive and negative outcomes. Initiation and continuation of drinking, as well as the onset of problem drinking, are strongly and positively associated with expected benefits of drinking and negatively related to perceived negative