White middle-class teenagers drink more

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Teenagers are more likely to consume alcohol, and more likely to drink frequently, if they are white, non-religious and from a more affluent background, according to a study by the National Centre for Social Research, published by the Department for Education.

The study also clains that white middle-class children who are allowed to have alcohol at home are fuelling a 'drinking culture' in suburban secondary schools. They are more likely to have tasted alcohol in the home and then be drawn into underage drinking by friends at school.

These pupils run a greater risk of falling into 'risky behaviours' such as drug-taking, shoplifting and smoking, the report warns.

They are also more likely to develop negative attitudes to education. 'Young people who attended schools with a larger proportion of white pupils were more likely to have tried alcohol . . . as were those who attended schools with fewer pupils who received free school meals,' the report said.

'These results may indicate the presence of aspects of a "drinking culture" in some schools.
'Young people of very low social position may be less likely to try alcohol, possibly because it is less likely to be available in the home.'

Young white people are most likely to have tried alcohol, followed by mixed-race teenagers and those from black Caribbean backgrounds.

Youngsters of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are least likely to have consumed it.

At the same time, those whose parents are unemployed or on low incomes are less likely to have tried drinking than their middle-class peers.

The study also found that girls are more likely to drink than boys. Youngsters who play sport or a musical instrument are also more likely to drink than those who do not.

For the study, based on a survey of 15,500 young people since 2004, the National Centre for Social Research examined the drinking habits of teenagers aged 14 to 17, according to statistics from the centre's Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).

Overall, 56 per cent of participants had had an alcoholic drink by the age of 14, and by 17 the figure was 86 per cent.

A spokesperson at the Department for Education said: "This research proves that alcohol can have a devastating impact on the lives of children and young people and causes much more than just health problems. The number of young people drinking alcohol is falling but it is important that the government looks at what can be done to reduce this further and faster."

Another findings of the study was that youngsters who had been bullied in the last year were between up to five times more likely to be drinking on most days than those who had not.

The study concludes: "We found that young people who attended schools with a larger proportion of white pupils were more likely to have tried alcohol regardless of their own ethnic group, as were those who attended schools with fewer pupils who received free school meals (FSM), again regardless of their own FSM status.

"These results may indicate the presence of aspects of a 'drinking culture' in some schools, whereby having a higher proportion of individual pupils who drink makes it more likely that those pupils who have characteristics that make them less likely to drink (for example, being from minority ethnic groups) are also more likely to try alcohol."

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