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Some Fourth-Graders May Already Be Abusing Alcohol

Study in children from the United States shows boys at greater risk than girls

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Some U.S. children start drinking alcohol in fourth grade, suggesting that prevention efforts should target younger children than previously thought, researchers report in the September issue of Prevention Science.

John Donovan, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed four national and seven statewide surveys of drug and alcohol use by U.S. children in sixth grade and earlier over a period of 15 years.

The researchers found that drinking prevalence fell with the level of involvement assessed. However, alcohol use escalated with children's age, and doubled from fourth to sixth grade.

Boys in every grade ran a greater alcohol abuse risk than girls, the report indicates. Black children ran almost as great a risk of abusing alcohol as Hispanic and white children.

"Over the past decade or so, the prevalence of both lifetime and current alcohol use has been declining in children," the authors write. "The failure to assess intensity of children's use hampers evaluation of the level of risk experienced by children. There is a need for ongoing nationwide surveillance of alcohol use in this population and for greater education of parents regarding the dangers of introducing children to alcohol use."

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