June 26, 2007 Nearly 20 percent of young males are willing to purchase alcohol for underage youth when approached outside of an alcohol establishment, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
A study published in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) found that 19 percent of young males over the age of 21 were willing to purchase alcohol for youth who appeared to be underage when "shoulder-tapped" outside of a convenience or liquor store. In contrast, only 8 percent of the general adult population entering alcohol establishments were willing to purchase the alcohol.
Most underage drinkers obtain alcohol from social sources, individuals who illegally provide alcohol to youth, as opposed to commercial sources. These sources include parents, parents of friends, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, siblings, and even strangers. "Shoulder-tapping" occurs when an underage person approaches a stranger outside of an alcohol establishment and asks this person to purchase alcohol for him or her.
"The small percent of the general population that agreed to purchase alcohol when approached is encouraging," said Traci Toomey, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota. "However, the percentage of males willing to buy alcohol was much higher. One out of every five young males that were approached bought the alcohol when requested."
Researchers conducted two waves of shoulder-tap requests outside of 219 randomly selected convenience or liquor stores in both urban and suburban areas. Requesters were young adults (4 females, 1 male) aged 21 years or older who appeared to be 18 to 20 years old. Requesters explained that they did not have their identification with them, and asked the adults to purchase a six-pack of beer for them. During wave one, requesters conducted 102 attempts, with the requester approaching the first adult entering the store alone. During wave two, requesters conducted 102 attempts, approaching the first male entering the store alone who appeared to be 21 to 30 years old.
The study also found that adults approached at a city convenience or liquor store rather than one located in a suburb were nine times more likely to make the purchase.
"Examining the social sources of alcohol to underage drinkers allows us to identify effective interventions," said Toomey. "This study is a first step, but more research needs to be done on all social sources and possible community efforts to stop adults from providing alcohol to underage drinkers."
This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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