While most addiction specialists point to anxiety and depression as significant contributing factors to drinking in adolescents, new research indicates that aggression can play more of an important role.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland found results in their study that create a strong correlation between aggressive behavior in teenagers and increased alcohol consumption.
The researchers hoped to determine some of the reasons for a rise in youth aggression and discovered that teens with aggression problems were more likely to drink and engage in alcohol abuse.Surprisingly, the study found no link between depression and anxiety and an increased risk for alcohol consumption among teenagers.
Alcohol Abuse in Aggressive Teens
Researchers in Finland that were involved in the study evaluated the association between psychological problems and alcohol use in 4,074 Finnish adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. The study found that 60 percent of the participants consumed alcohol at some point during the study and 50 percent of the 15 year olds abused the drug.
There was no significant difference between the level of alcohol use among boys and girls involved in the study. The adolescents in the study who were known to behave aggressively were more likely to drink alcohol and in larger quantities than their peers. Those with symptoms of depression or anxiety showed no association with alcohol abuse.
Factors which could also increase alcohol abuse were smoking and attention seeking disorders. For girls in the study, parental divorce also significantly contributed to alcohol abuse. Contrary to common thought, the girls in the study more often exhibited aggressive behavior compared to the boys.
Effects of Early Drinking Problems
The findings of the study show that aggressive teens tend to drink and abuse alcohol more than those that suffer from feelings of depression or anxiety. While the proportion of adolescents who abuse alcohol has not grown compared with earlier studies the level of abuse has increased with many teens consuming high amounts of alcohol that exceed risk levels.
The study also found that alcohol abuse that begins early in adolescence can increase the probability of mental health problems and alcohol dependence later on in life. Early alcohol abuse is detrimental to brain development for teens who have not reached their full stages of growth.
The study hoped to shed light on the link between alcohol abuse and behavioral and emotional problems in teenagers; a connection which is still not fully understood.
Understanding Teens and Alcohol
Many of results of the study were surprising and indicated a change in the way teens relate to drinking and their reasons for their abuse. The fact that girls were found to be aggressive more often than boys in the study raises questions about a possible change in the behavior or adolescent girls and how they handle their vulnerability during teen social and emotional development.
Researchers also questioned why there was no correlation between depression and alcohol abuse which is thought to be a fairly common connection for people suffering from alcoholism. The study reveals that teens possibly drink for different reasons than their adult counterparts and deal with their more aggressive emotions through alcohol rather than feelings of sadness or stress.
Adolescent aggression appears to be increasing causing more teens to drink heavier amounts of alcohol than before. Teens with problems of aggression are drinking more than their peers and putting themselves at risk for developing addiction and mental health problems early on in their lives.
While this study brings some of these problems to light, there is more that needs to be understood about the relationship between teen alcohol abuse and their emotional and behavioral problems.