Over the past decades, scientists worldwide have become increasingly vocal and alarmed about the dangers facing the younger generation – children, teenagers and young adults. Teenage alcoholism is different from adult alcoholism. Considering the unstable psyche of the adolescent, there is a rapid reaction to addiction and psychiatric disorders. Growth processes and all functions of the growing body are impaired: reactions, mental capacity, and active personality degradation occur. It takes 5-10 years of uninterrupted drinking to develop alcoholism in adults; in adolescents, this period is limited to only 2-3 years – the processes of physical and psychological poisoning occur much faster (Grossman, 2017). This paper will analyze the influence of such phenomenon as social deviation on the development of adolescent alcoholism and consider this problem from a theoretical point of view.
The phenomena of deviant behavior can be generally defined as a specific deviation from social norms and rules of conduct accepted in a particular society. The social model is a necessary and relatively stable element of social practice, which serves as an instrument of social regulation and control. A social norm is found in everything that has become a habit, firmly embedded in everyday life. In today’s reforming society, where some norms have been destroyed, and others have not been created even in theory, the problem of applying norms becomes extremely difficult. The deviant behavior of a considerable mass of the population embodies today the most dangerous destructive tendencies. Such adverse movements in society as property inequality, a sharp decline in the demand for spiritual values, increased social disorientation, unemployment, a problematic criminogenic situation, and the growing processes of family deformation have intensified. All this has had a severe effect on the lives of children and adolescents and is therefore directly linked to the problem of adolescent alcoholism.
The leading cause of early alcoholism in adolescents is deviant behavior or the desire for it. To begin with, consider the impact of social deviance on the development of alcoholism in adolescents from a macro perspective, in a more generalized way. Comparative sociological and ethnographic studies of binge drinking reveal several patterns. First, because intoxication reduces an individual’s sense of anxiety, binge drinking is more common. There are more socially tense and conflict situations. Some socially tense situations are caused precisely by deviance, whether of individuals or large groups. Thus, deviation generates more deviation, in this case being teenage alcoholism. Secondly, drinking is connected to specific forms of social control. In some cases, it is an obligatory element of some special rituals (ceremonial drinking). In others, it acts as an anti-normative behavior, a means of escape from external control. The second variant is precisely the one to link deviation and alcoholism. The anti-normative behavior when alcohol is consumed indiscriminately is deviation.
From a micro perspective, i.e., more individual analysis of the problem considering different circumstances, it is possible to come to a more or less homogeneous conclusion. Alcoholism is often rooted in an inner conflict stemming from the individual’s desire to overcome an overwhelming, oppressive sense of addiction. This conflict has its own socio-pedagogical background. Suppose the hyper-protective attitude in early childhood and adolescence is later replaced by a philosophy of autonomy and personal achievement (Loredo et al, 2018). In that case, the individual finds it difficult to reconcile these conflicting attitudes. A sense of dependency and motivational conflict arises, which finds temporary resolution in deviant behavior, which creates the illusion of freedom. By drinking, the teenager seeks to extinguish his characteristic state of anxiety and, at the same time to get rid of excessive self-control and shyness. The desire to experiment and especially the norms of adolescent subculture, in which drinking has traditionally been seen as a sign of masculinity and adulthood, also play an essential role.
Examining the problem of teenage alcoholism from the perspective of structural functionalism helps to deepen understanding of why the problem exists. Structural functionalism treats society as a social system with its own structure and mechanisms of interaction of structural elements, each fulfilling its own function (Nord, 2018). Analyzing in which structure and under which mechanisms of interaction young alcoholics are situated, we can trace the roots of the problem. Most seventeen-year-olds are characterized by a lack of their own stable world view and their own scale of values which at this age are replaced by a group picture of the world and group values. In other words, the adolescent is less oriented towards himself/herself (or parents, because of the negativism characteristic of this age) than towards a group of peers with its inherent norms, values and behavior patterns. The combination of reasons for the above features of adolescence and adolescence makes it a convenient target for alcohol.
Alcohol consumption becomes a symbol of joining a group, a reliable anchor in life and at the same time a means of pacifying one’s own disturbed soul. A group that consists mainly of teenagers like them only encourages them to get deeper in the state of dependence. These are the formal reasons. The substantial ones have their roots in the nature of the conflicts which affect the teenager, in the means offered by the family, school, and society as a whole. Basically, everything converges around the groups and structures in which the adolescent is situated, which is what the theory of structural functionalism implies. By studying this theory, one can also understand how to deal with the problem. From a theoretical point of view, this requires placing the adolescent in an appropriate structure which will not accept such habits. Thus, by removing the factor of negative influence from the deviant group, the adolescent will stop likening himself to it and abusing alcohol.
Nowadays, the problem of teenage alcoholism is mainly combated by the introduction of more and more strict prohibitions. I believe that an absolute ban on alcohol consumption or any strict measures will only lead to an increase in the consumption of counterfeit alcoholic beverages. The problem is that despite bans and fines, alcohol is still being sold to minors in many countries. This should not be the case. In most countries alcohol is not sold to under 21. However, there are places in any country where you can buy alcohol at any age. I believe that criminal penalties should be imposed for selling alcohol to minors. There is also another problem – the various agencies that monitor minors stop doing so when a person turns 18. However, at that age, the body is not yet robust and can easily get used to alcohol. The main step in combating teenage alcoholism is to enforce the law.
Grossman, M. (2017). Determinants of health: an economic perspective. Columbia University Press.
Loredo, A. A., Juárez, O. H., & Casas, M. A. (Eds.). (2018). Child abuse: harm and solutions. Nova Science.
Nord, C. (2018). Translating as a purposeful activity: functionalist approaches explained. Routledge.