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Preteen Alcohol Use Associated With Suicide in Adolescents

Startling headlines about youth violence are becoming more common. Reports about school shootings, fights videotaped on cell phones, and violent hazing rituals all demonstrate the increase in youth violence. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a survey of youth violence-related issues. The national survey was distributed to teens in 7th, 9th, and 11th grade. The teens were in high-risk high schools across the US. The survey has been used to gather information about the influences and causes of youth violence. The topics covered include violence, victimization, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors .

Researchers from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reviewed the results from this survey to understand if early alcohol use contributes to any form of teen violence. The review, published in the Journal of Pediatrics , found that teens that used alcohol at early ages were more likely to have been involved in a violent act and have suicidal behaviors or thoughts.

About the Study

This study focused on survey results of seventh graders. Researchers only included teens that had either begun drinking before aged 13, or were nondrinkers. The number of violent acts in each group was totaled. The violence could have been dating or peer violence or suicidal behaviors. The students may have been the perpetrators or victims. In the group selected, 35% of the teens had initiated alcohol use before 13 years of age. The results were:

  • Those that did drink averaged 2.8 violent behaviors.
  • Those that did not drink averaged 1.8 violent behaviors.

Further research accounted for confounders such as peer delinquency and parental supervision. When these factors were accounted for, suicide attempts were still significantly linked to early initiation of alcohol.

How Does This Affect You?

There are many factors that influence violent behaviors in teens. Alcohol appears to be one of them. In some cases it may stimulate the violence. In other cases violence or depression may stimulate the alcohol use. More tightly controlled studies will need to be done to determine this. In any case, alcohol is a dangerous to teen behavior. Every effort should be made to prevent or delay alcohol use in teens.

Open communication is important between parents and teens to prevent youth violence and substance abuse. If anyone exhibits suicidal behaviors or thoughts seek help immediately.




  • Swahn MH, Bossatre RM, Sullivent EE III. Age of alcohol use initiation, suicidal behavior, and peer and dating violence victimization and perpetration among high-risk, seventh-grade adolescents. Pediatrics . 2008 Feb;121(2):297-305.

Last reviewed February 2009 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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