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Explaining Underage Drinking Through the Social Process Lens

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Two Theories of Underage Drinking

Deviance is at its core in social construction that is used to maintain social order (Henry, 2019). In my own words I believe that deviance is used to describes a behavior or action that violates a social norm, for example knowing that drinking is wrong but still do it. I believe that even though a social norm is violated, the behavior can still be known as a positive or acceptable social norm. For example, drinking is bad but many young adults drink out of curiosity. We can’t detect whether or not a person behavior may change negatively. My topic for deviance is underage drinking within young adolescents. Most young adolescents are drawn to alcohol by curiosity. The prediction of underage drinking is based on the social learning and planned behavior theory. Drinking beliefs are from physical harm, peer influence, beliefs about one’s ability to avoid drinking, and participation in other risky behaviors. (Grube & Voas, 1996). With this being said, I believe that the theories of underage drinking are towards the social process lens. Social control theory sees individuals and social structure as coproduced through social interactions over time and creates bonds through associations with conventional social factors (Henry, 2019). Another theory I believe connects to underage drinking is social learning theory with explains behavior during social interaction with significant others, such as parents, friends, or peers.

Social Learning Theory

Often, social learning theory connects to “older siblings or other family members who are the first to introduce a young teenager to alcohol and is then shared with close friends. Reported problem drinkers are more prone to peer pressure or influence from friends or peers and less parental guidance on the use of alcohol from parents” (Arata, Stafford, & Yims, 2003). “Many theories have assumed that family processes associated with risk for substance use are applicable to young adolescents of all racial/ethnic groups” (Ben T. Reeb, 2014). Many young adults engage in deviant acts because they find it to be exciting. For example, creating deviant acts help a person engage in friendship or attract a certain someone. “It is natural for youths to strive to meet their needs such as gaining more friends” (Sokol-Katz & Dunham, 1997). Not only can it be good that young adolescents drink only with family, we consider “how parents use their own childhood experience of drinking as a blueprint of how they should act towards their own children” (Holdsworth, Laverty, & Robinson, 2017). Adolescent alcohol use is truly a major social problem.

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Social Control Theory

Social control theory explains underage drinking because this deviant behavior is deemed as both cultural and social because basically everyone drinks while watching a sports game with friends. It is viewed as creating bonds with certain individuals to make friends at school, parties, family events. Connecting social control theory to cultural and social behaviors brought more information as to why young adolescents drink. Teenagers seen friends and family drink socially and culturally which makes them believe it is okay. Many young adolescents develop theories of customs that surround their alcohol intake. This custom cover what they drink, how much they drink, and where they drink.

My Opinion

I believe that both theories explain the deviant behavior equally because it sorts of connects together. Underage drinking is a social activity that mainly has of small groups of friends who hang out together away from parents and other adults. When young teenagers start to be curious and is interested in experimenting with alcohol, the small group of friends or strangers begin to develop sets of beliefs, drinking habits, and rituals around new behaviors that only they know. Teenagers drink alcohol to get drunk while most have the desire to try alcohol as a curiosity. Alcohol helps loose anyone to be more comfortable and enjoy life at the moment, makes everyone gain more confidence in themselves in front of other teenagers. Although this makes teenagers think drinking is fun, it also displayed that they cannot handle their drinking, have a high chance of getting caught, and ruining evenings. Young teenagers have developed a specific drinking culture around their use of alcohol. Drinking culture that is evolved over time and they become more experienced.

Free Choice Actors

Comparing these theories to free choice actors, I believe it’s totally different. Free choice actors are the idea that young adolescents drink to manipulate achievements. For example, people shoplift to make a living. But underage drinking is not about achieving something but more of fulfilling a curiosity. With this theory, many people who are rule-breakers deviate for selfish reasons that will maximize their self-gratification (Henry, 2019).

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