Adolescents ages 10–15 experience dramatic changes in their biological, cognitive, emotional, and social development as well as in their physical and social environments. These include the physiological and psychological changes associated with puberty; further development of the brain; changes in family, peer, and romantic relationships; and exposure to new societal and cultural influences. During this period, many adolescents also begin to use alcohol. Alcohol use during adolescence has adverse effects on the body and increases the risk of alcohol dependence later in life. To better understand why some children drink whereas others do not, researchers are examining nonspecific and alcohol-specific factors that put adolescents at risk for, or which protect them from, early alcohol use and its associated problems. Nonspecific risk factors include certain temperamental and personality traits, family factors, and nonnormative development. Examples of nonspecific protective factors include certain temperamental characteristics, religiosity, and parenting factors (e.g., parental nurturance and monitoring). Among the most influential alcohol-specific risk and protective factors are a family history of alcoholism and the influences of siblings and peers, all of which shape an adolescent’s expectancies about the effects of alcohol, which in turn help determine alcohol use behaviors.
Keywords: Preadolescent, adolescent, puberty, underage drinking, problematic drinking, risk factors, protective factors, alcohol and other drug (AOD) use initiation, AOD use behavior, growth and development, biological development, psychological development