Culture in America — for better or worse — has evolved beyond the point of 21 as the legal drinking age, effectively encouraging breaking the law. A scale of hazard levels in a society`s drinking patterns was developed, ranging from a first approximation of 1 for the least hazardous models to 4 for the most hazardous models (Rehm et al., 2001; see Table 13-4). On this scale, for example, Portugal is ranked 1, the United States 2, Sweden 3 and Russia 4. While the proportion of opportunities for relatively high alcohol consumption is considered in the scale, the scale does not include the drunk behaviour dimension, that is, the extent to which intoxicated behaviour norms permit violence or other bad behaviour. Nevertheless, this dimension seems to be grouped between countries with the dimensions contained in the scale (Rehm et al., 2001). In a factor analysis of data from ethnographic records in different settings of traditional tribal and village societies, Partanen (1991, p. 213) also found that violence was particularly associated with a pattern of intermittent opportunities but excessive alcohol consumption. This continues into adulthood. Total alcohol consumption per person is much higher in most European countries. Drinkers from several European countries – including the UK, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland – are also more likely to report binge drinking than their US counterparts. Since Americans can`t visit many places without a car, this appears to be a right of way to drive in the U.S.
at 16. In Europe, however, driving is not necessarily that important, and therefore the legal driving age is 18 without adult supervision. I was shocked to learn that at the age when Americans can vote, Europeans are just starting to drive. It was certainly one of the biggest cultural shocks I had when I arrived in Belgium. In terms of the actual proportion of those who drank 3 or more times in the past 30 days, the United States is the fourth lowest country; In two of the three societies with lower percentages, lack of resources is likely to be a factor in keeping the frequency of alcohol consumption low. The U.S. also appears to be at the lower end of the distribution among the proportions of people who regularly drink heavily, although no accurate comparison is available on drinking 5 or more drinks (26% of U.S. tenth graders reported drinking at least once more in the past 2 weeks). Compared to Europe, American teens are less likely to drink regularly and seem to drink regularly a little less frequently. In several countries – the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland and Denmark – the proportion of adolescents who drank at least 3 times 5+ drinks in the past month is significantly higher than the proportion of American adolescents who drank at least once more in the past two weeks.
One of the most common arguments against the legal drinking age in the United States is that Europe, despite its lower drinking age, has a supposedly safer drinking culture. After advocating for keeping the drinking age in the U.S. at 21, it`s a question readers have repeatedly raised in emails: If a lower drinking age is so bad, why is Europe doing well? „Europe is generally very high, both for the adult population and for 15-19 year olds,“ Rekve said. More than a fifth of the European population aged 15 and over reported heavy episodic use at least once a week, according to the WHO. Under these laws, many young people learn to drink in dangerous environments, such as basement barrel parties. They consume alcohol with the intention of getting drunk, not as an accompaniment to food. The researchers say young Americans engage in dangerous „binge drinking“ far too often and far more often than some of their European counterparts who learn to drink outside. The United States should learn from cultures such as those of Jews, Italians and Greeks, which traditionally focus on alcohol abuse rather than simply drinking as a source of problems.
„Education efforts should encourage moderate alcohol consumption among those who choose to drink,“ says sociologist David J. Hanson (1996:45). The prevalence of legal behavioural restrictions by chronological age is a relatively modern phenomenon. The minimum drinking age, for example, generally corresponds only to the post-abolition period (Mosher, 1980). Status differentiations in terms of life stages have a much longer and broader history. But modern legal constraints compress and encourage a cultural tendency to think of these status differentiations in a certain way: in terms of chronological age. In a strongly universalist cultural and legal framework, a fixed chronological age that applies to all is a more convenient and defendable legal definition of adulthood than any criterion based on an individualized assessment of maturity or marital status (e.g. marriage). Of course, a more universal standard for behavior deemed inappropriate for children is to prohibit it for everyone. Of course, there can be no minimum age restrictions for behaviors that are also illegal for adults, such as marijuana use. A WHO report published in September found that in 15 countries and regions in the Region, more than 1 in 5-15 year olds reported alcohol every week in 2002, with the highest prevalence in England, Scotland, Malta and Denmark. But until 2014, only Malta had a prevalence of more than 20%.
On the other hand, „some countries have a total ban on alcohol, so it`s not legal to sell to anyone,“ said Dag Rekve, a researcher at WHO`s Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Geneva, Switzerland. An important consideration regarding the minimum drinking age is how and under what circumstances to start drinking. A position paper by the National Youth Rights Association (nd) summarizes the main reasoning on this issue used in the United States: Based on data mainly from the United States, but also from Canada and Australasia, there is no doubt that the change in the age of alcohol affects alcohol consumption and traffic accident rates at the respective ages and, to some extent, at older ages (Wagenaar & Toomey, 2002). However, the impact on other health and social problems is less clear. A recent Danish study found that the introduction of a minimum age of 15 years for consumer purchases outside the industry has an impact on consumption levels (Møller, 2002). In this case, the effect also extended into the 15th century. This may reflect an awareness among Danish parents about the control of their children`s alcohol consumption following the public debate on the measure. On the other side of the argument, it must be recognized that drinking behavior in the United States has already changed significantly over a period of about a generation – quitting alcohol before driving. Given American culture`s dependence on the automobile, this was a significant, if incomplete, change. But efforts to reduce rates of alcohol consumption before the age of 21. Reducing the age of life to insignificance seems to be a much more difficult task, especially in a culturally saturated environment of promoting alcohol consumption in youth-oriented media, and in a legal environment where restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion are increasingly constitutionally suspect (Hudson, 2002).
It takes decades and even longer to become visible. Some traditional qualitative characteristics of alcohol consumption seem to change very persistently, even in the midst of large quantitative changes in the level of drinking, etc. Therefore, the analysis in this report suggests that the natural time frame for changes in consumption patterns is a generation rather than a decade or less. If accepted, it means that efforts to prevent alcohol-related harm through measures targeting drinking patterns will only lead to very long-term gains, if at all. During this long process, the child/adolescent is defined as a kind of follower of his future as an adult. Children are protected to some extent by agreements such as juvenile courts and sealed records from potential repercussions on their adult lives such as criminal records. But parents, teachers and other adult guardians define the central role of the child, and especially the adolescent, as a preparation through education and otherwise to take a full place in adult life, and are concerned about anything that might hinder this preparation, and about behaviors that may tarnish future status or interfere with future functioning in adult life. In this cultural context, there is particular concern about behaviours and experiences that are morally suspicious but legally tolerated among adults. Indeed, child protection laws are often a signal of residual cultural disapproval of behaviors that were ultimately not only immoral, but illegal for everyone.