. "4 Developmental and Environmental Influences on Underage Drinking: A General Overview--Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher and Michael Biehl." Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.
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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
increased dissatisfaction with their bodies, have lower self-esteem, have school difficulties, and engage in problem behaviors such as drinking, smoking, and early sexual behavior as compared to late-maturing girls. In contrast, late-maturing boys express more dissatisfaction with their body image, tend to be less popular and less athletic, and perform less well academically than early maturing boys. The psychological and behavioral difficulties resulting from early or late pubertal onset can be ameliorated through parental involvement, communication, and support.
Cognitive and Psychosocial Development
During adolescence, thinking becomes more abstract and less concrete, and adolescents become more future oriented, allowing them to consider multiple aspects of any decision at one time, assess potential consequences of a decision, consider possible outcomes associated with various choices, and plan for the future. These cognitive changes are coupled with psychosocial development, including social perspective taking, susceptibility to peer pressure, and increased need for autonomy (e.g., Steinberg and Cauffman, 1996). Social perspective taking refers to the ability to recognize how the thoughts and actions of one person can influence those of another. Social perspective taking has been shown to gradually increase until about age 16 (Steinberg and Cauffman, 1996). Applied to underage drinking, it is expected that individuals who are more capable of social perspective taking will be more able to understand why underage alcohol use is not condoned and understand that not all people have the same views concerning alcohol use. Although generally an indicator of greater maturity, a downside of this new ability to understand different perspectives is that adolescents become highly concerned with peer conformity, which may make them more susceptible to peer pressure, including pressure to drink alcohol. A more detailed discussion of peer influences and social norms is presented later in this chapter.
These cognitive and psychosocial changes are also accompanied by adolescents’ questioning of parental control and rules and their desire to be more autonomous, which often translates into their desire to participate in, and eventually dictate, their own decision making. The desire to be autonomous and make one’s own decisions is considered an important hallmark of adolescence. The literature clearly indicates that the need to be more autonomous and be granted more decision making opportunities increases with age. Several other simultaneous changes during adolescence serve to increase adolescents’ desire for autonomy. First, as indicated earlier, physical changes of puberty result in the adolescent seeing himself or herself as more deserving of privileges, and others tend to have similar expectations for youth. Second, increased time spent with peers leads to more experi-