Girls Binging, Drinking to Reduce Stress

by | Feb 24, 2011 | Empowering Girls, Stress, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

Research shows a disturbing trend: girls are drinking and binging more to reduce stress. Parenting solutions to help young girls

Think drinking is only a “boy” problem? Data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America may make you think again.

The survey results on 3287 teens in grades nine through twelve reveal a troubling trend—especially for girls.

But why girls are getting high is particularly disturbing.

Study results

More than two-thirds of teen girls admit using alcohol and drugs to help them cope with stress at home.Here are other highlights from the study:

•  Alcohol and marijuana use amongst girl increasing as a coping mechanism

• Half of the girls said that drugs help them “forget their troubles”

• Teens state a key reason for drug and alcohol use is as a way to “escape for a short period of time”

2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey

Teen Alcohol Use

53% of girls: in 2008

59% of girls: in 2009

50% of boys: in 2008

52% of boys: in 2009

Girls are drinking and binging to reduce their stress. In past posts I’ve discussed depression, suicide, eating disorders, cyberbullying, stress, overwhelmed, college freshmen depression, and a “too, sexy, too fast, too soon culture of raunch” our girls are raised in. Right now let’s take on the rise of the female drinking scene and what we can do to help our girls handle life and grow to be strong, healthy young women.

Solutions to the Girl Drinking Problem

1. Get savvy

Please don’t use a “Not my kid” kind of attitude. Forget the “She’s too young” or  “Not my daughter!” attitude as well. Teen drinking and substance abuse is a growing problem that we simply can’t ignore. Kids are taking their first drink at younger ages. Drinking amongst the girl scene is also increasing. We all need to take a reality check.

2. Be a good model of restraint

Teens get their views about alcohol from watching your behavior and listening to your comments. This research also is a warning that we not glamorize alcohol or say we’re using pills or alcohol as a way to unwind, “I sure could use a drink!”  The research shows that teen girls in particular are getting high as a way to cope. Beware!

3. Set clear rules against drinking and drugs

Feel free to be puritanical and strict. Consistently enforcing those rules and monitor your kid’s behavior all help reduce the likelihood of underage drinking. A study of over 1000 teens found that kids with “hands on” parents who establish clear behavior expectations, monitor their comings and goings, and aren’t afraid to says no are four times less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking. Be a parent, not a pal.

4. Start those talks earlier and talk often

You must talk to your child about drinking and the earlier the better. Before age nine, kids usually perceive alcohol negatively and see drinking as “bad” with negative consequences.

By around the age of thirteen kids views of alcohol, change and become more positive and harder to change.

Some kids are experimenting with drinking as young as ten or eleven. It’s never too early to start this talk, so don’t put it off.

5. Watch out for TV advertising

Long-term studies show that kids who see, hear and read more alcohol ads are more likely to drink and drink heavier than their peers. A study with third, sixth and ninth graders found those who alcohol ads desirable are also more likely to view drinking more positively. Use those frequently-aired beer and vodka commercials during those ballgames you’re watching together as opportunities to discuss your values, concerns, and rules about drinking and pill popping.

6. Dispel the “quick fix” myth

The increase use of prescription drugs as well as cold medications amongst teens is also a growing and serious problem. Those TV commercials can give kids a very wrong impression: “The quick fix to any problem is a pill.” Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation points out, “We’ve become a society that basically says, “If things aren’t perfect in your life, take a pill. This cause our young people to see drugs as an answer.” Instead, we must help our kids grow strong from the inside-out. Boost authentic self-esteem. Get her involved in healthy activities. Turn her on to positive peers. Keep a strong relationship.

7. Reduce stress and teach coping strategies

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) found that stress is the main reason teen girls are using drugs. Girls also related that they are using drugs as a way to cope with problems at home. This confirms research from varying sources showing teen stress is mounting as well as teen depression.

Keep a lid on the stress at home. Find ways to cope as a family (walking, exercising, eating healthier, sticking to a sleep routine).

Teach coping strategies and stress reducers to your teen (yoga, deep breathing, stress management techniques).

8. Get on board with other parents

More than half also reported that drugs help kids relax in social settings.

Know your kid’s friends and their parents.

Call any parent hosting a party to ensure they are really supervising those sleepovers or parties.

A word to the wise: 99 percent of parents say they would not be willing to serve alcohol at their kid’s party, though 28 percent of teens say they have been at supervised parties where alcohol is available.

Ninety-eight percent of parents say they are present at teen parties at their home, but 33 percent of teens say parents are rarely or never at teen parties.

Though the teen party scene maybe several years away, get to know those parents now. They will be hosting those parties your child may be attending in just a few short years.

9. Watch the home scene

More kids take their first drink at your home or at the home of their friends.

In fact, 60 percent of eighth graders say it is fairly or very easy to obtain alcohol-and the easiest place is in their own home.

Count those bottles in your liquor cabinets.

Lock up your liquor supply (and don’t tell your kids where the key is).

Check your credit card: the hottest new place kids buy alcohol is on the Internet.

Watch your medicine cabinet (abuse of prescription drugs, cold and cough syrup medication is on the rise). Stay alert!

Get educated.

Stay involved! And know you do make a difference!

Now go talk to your daughter!


Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books.

You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Checkfor ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news about child development.

Follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba

You can also find dozens more research-based and practical tips in my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. For more tips about helping stressed kids refer to specific chapters: Angry (pg 232) Dependent (pg 240); Overscheduled (pg 568); Perfectionist (pg 272);  Stressed (pg 303); Worried About the World (pg 310)