social hosting

Parents Held Responsible for Teen Drinking

In order to combat the underage drinking problem, many counties have enacted social hosting laws. These laws hold accountable anyone who is hosting a party where underage drinking is occurring. Different states and counties have variances in these laws, but all center on targeting the person who is supplying the alcohol and/or allowing underage drinking to occur.

Underage drinking has long been a problem, especially during high school. Maturity levels have a lot to do with the inability to drink moderately, which was a contributing factor when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 many years ago. Social host laws make it illegal to host parties where people under the age of 21 are consuming alcohol, and police note that in areas where this law is in effect, there are less incidents of underage drinking parties.

Bettina Friese with the Prevention Research Center in Okland has been researching the underage drinking problem in our country and has found that most teens receive multiple texts in a weekend regarding underage drinking parties. Additionally, Friese conducted a survey of 1,100 teenagers and found that 39 percent of them hosted parties where alcohol was involved. The survey also indicated that 70 percent of the teenagers surveyed said that their parents have known that they were at parties where drinking was involved.

It seems that parents are most concerned with drinking and driving. Most parents feel that it is safer for teenagers to drink under the supervision of an adult, rather than at someone else’s home where there is no adult present. While it may be true that adult supervision could be better, this train of thought is a bit short-sighted due to the overall legality of the consumption as well as the message of approval that sends to young people.

This mindset is also shared by law enforcement, and was the catalyst behind enacting the social host law. Ignoring some parent’s excuses that their child is ok to drink under their supervision, police agencies and lawmakers have begun to crack down on parents who allow underage drinking in their home. In states like California, if the parent is unaware that underage drinking is occurring in their home, the child will receive the fine.

“We found that cities with more stringent and enforceable social host laws had lower levels of drinking at parties among teenagers compared to cities with less stringent laws, or without any kind of social host law,” explained M.J. Paschall, a researcher who has been looking into the effectiveness of these types of laws throughout the country.

Perhaps fining parents will continue to help reduce underage drinking problems in more areas around the country.

Communities With Strong Social Hosting Laws Linked to Less Underage Drinking

Teens who live in communities with strict social hosting laws are less likely to drink at parties, says a new study in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Social hosting laws hold adults responsible for any underage drinkers partaking on their property.

Fifty Californian communities were investigated, half having existing social hosting laws. Communities with strong social hosting laws were identified as the towns where the law is aimed at underage drinking, where penalties and fines are quickly administered, and the property owners are held accountable for any underage drinking – even if they were unaware of it.

Mallie Paschall, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, California, says the preliminary findings are encouraging since most teenagers rely on getting alcohol from social sources, instead of buying it at a store. “In theory, laws aimed at those social sources – the parents or other adults of legal drinking age – should help reduce underage drinking,” Paschall said.

Paschall noted that public knowledge and enforcement of the laws are key. He said that if adults don’t know they can be held accountable, and if police officers and local prosecutors don’t enforce the social hosting laws, then the policies won’t be a deterrent for underage drinking.

Many states and local communities have passed social hosting laws. The details of the laws vary from community to community and from state to state. Research leading up to Paschall’s study produced mixed results on whether or not the social hosting laws prevent teenage drinking.

Future studies will include researchers looking at the rates of teen drinking both before and after social hosting legislation was passed to determine if the policies truly have an impact on deterring underage drinking. Paschall also stated that it is important to study whether or not social hosting legislation reduce teen drinking related problems like drunk driving.