Drinking in teenagers has for long been a concern of policy makers in the United States. The implementation of this law came as an outcome of wide spread drink fatalities among young people during the 1970s. As a result of the increase of these fatalities the United States Congress passed a law in 1984 that successfully rose the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 years. Each State in the country is free to maintain a legal drinking age of 18 years, the law denies those states important federal funds, and hence as a result it has operated as a blanket national policy for over thirty years. The advocates of this law maintain that the current law is prejudiced and it contributed to an increase in alcohol abuse within the targeted age group. The challengers of this debate persevere that the current law has saved many lives and is thus seen as an efficient measure to battle alcoholism in the entire country.
Alcohol consumption is known to present a major challenge in the country especially in the age domain of 18 to 21 years. Van der Vorst, Engels, Meeus and Dekovic (EBSCOhost) says that “the number of those who consume alcohol at the age of 18 years is associated with enhanced levels of drinking in the later years of their adolescence.” For those supporting the argument that the drinking age should be not lowered from twenty one years to eighteen years argue that the negative effects of starting to drink early (18 years) in life are likely to gain insight into the predictors of the development of alcohol use in early adolescence (Van der Vorst, Engels, Meeus and Dekovic EBSCOhost).
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In the last couple of years the debate of lowering the drinking age has been very popular. This statement is supported because many people believe that at the age of eighteen years, an individual is considered to be an adult and on top of that he or she can enlist in the army. Individuals are perceived as capable of taking care of themselves. Those who are against the debate argue that many deaths that occur under the age of twenty one are related to underage drinking. People under the age of twenty one are regarded as not mature enough to handle the effects of alcohol. It has been argued that if a person is mature enough to join the armed forces and fight for the country during times of war, then he or she should be mature to handle beer.
According to Van der Vorst, Engels, Meeus, and Dekovic alcohol consumption for people under the age of twenty one years is seen as a method of coping with negative effects which in turn consequently leads to harmful drinking. Research shows that alcohol consumption at the age of 18 has a negative influence on parental attachment. This implies that the more an individual below the age of twenty one consumes alcohol the less strong the adolescent perceives the attachment relationship with his or her parents. Van der Vorst, Engels, Meeus and Dekovic (EBSCOhost) thus said that” lowering the drinking age to 18 years could move more individuals emotionally from their parents.”
Gotham, Sher, and Wood say that lowering the age will teach the teens how to become responsible with drinking as well as consume alcohol moderately. On the contrary, lowering the drinking age means that individuals will become more dependent on alcohol. Gotham, Sher, and Wood indicated that “it is important to note that those individuals to start drinking at the age of eighteen years still continue to drink heavily beyond the college years than those who start drinking at age 21.”
It is therefore clear that the maturing-out effect is related most strongly to developmental and role transitions for people between the ages 18 and 21 years, such as becoming involved in the workforce like joining the military (Gotham, Sher, and Wood EBSCOhost). There is also a more established and underlying personal-difference effects that manipulate people at age of 18 years to grow-up and others to maintain a model of earlier heavy drinking.
The reason for lowering the drinking age from eighteen years to twenty one year’s is a result of individual-difference attributes that might be camouflaged by the devastating social and relative factors that promote drinking during the age of 18 years. Gotham, Sher, and Wood also said that “between the age of eighteen to twenty years, individuals render those issues less significant, while other variables turn out to be more relevant to continued alcohol involvement”. Gotham, Sher, and Wood also say that “although multi-factorial models are needed to capture the complex etiology of alcohol involvement , we anticipate that both individual-difference and age transition variables can be used to target individuals who do not mature out of earlier heavy use and may be at risk for later alcohol problems”. For those people who do not advocate lowering the drinking age they are faced by very many challenges because it is perceived that if people aged 18 years are voting, joining and serving in the military they can as well drink responsibly.
Timken, Wanberg and Milkman says that proponents of this debate argue that if people at the age of 18 years of age are old enough to vote in national elections and at the same time join the military as well as engaging in combat for the defense of the country then they are old enough and responsible to drink (120). Those supporting the debate argue that restricting a drinking age of twenty one years is difficult if not impossible when a young people are not living with their parents and thus they are all practical purposes treated by the society as adults.
International Debate Education Association and Trapp in addition argue that the pros of this debate say that the current drinking age arbitrarily discriminates between people who are 21 years old and those who are young. In support of this Trapp argues that “US law assumes that 18 years old can handle serious responsibility in other contexts such as military service, jury service, voting, marriage and contract formation” (78). The implication is that the decision to drink is on the contrary less weighty than these important responsibilities listed above hence it is unjustified. Trapp further says that “the law is more difficult to enforce because in colleges and campuses people between the ages of 18 to 22 years old socialize together and therefore older students purchase alcohol that is consumed by younger students” (78).
On the other hand the opponents of this debate argue that the government has a genuine interest in preventing alcohol abuse by young people because drinking has shown catastrophic results thus the government has a strong interest in preventing these costs to the society (Trapp 78). It has also been established that the dangers resulting from underage drinking are great and hence countless lives have been saved since the law was implemented. He further says that the pros say that lowing the drinking age makes youth more responsible about drinking and as well helps in reducing future alcohol problems including binge drinking (Trapp 78). Those who oppose lowering the drinking age argue that it does not make young people more responsible because those who start drinking at ages of 18 years tend to drink more heavily in college and have more drinking problems generally later in their ages. They also say that young age drinking is related with severe problems such as drug abuse and dejection.
The publication Underage Drinking (2006) says that there is a very big difference between the age of 18 and 21 years. This is because the differences between the brain of a person who is 21 and a brain of a person of 18 years old help to explain why many young drinkers are able to consume much larger amounts of alcohol than adults. The publication further says that persons aged 18 years experience more negative consequences of drinking such as drowsiness, lack of coordination and hangover effects. Those who oppose the lowering of drinking age say that such persons experience unusual tolerance which explains the high rates of binge drinking among young adults.
The opponents say that when several states increased the drinking age to 21 years, momentous decrease in multiple types of injuries including deaths related to car accidents among the youth were observed. The 21 age policy for alcohol takes into consideration the fact that juvenile drinking is correlated to copious serious problems, such as injuries and deaths caused by car accidents, suicide, murder, attacks, obscuring and frivolous injuries. The article further says that untimely legal contact with alcohol is connected to increased rates of drinking of adult. The opponents also say that when the drinking ages is 21, persons under the age of 21 drinks less and keep on drinking less through their early twenties of their ages.
In conclusion, Trapp argues that lowering the drinking age encourages young people with drinking problems to present themselves and at the same time seek help (78). Trapp further says that “because selling and providing alcohol to people aged below 21 years is prohibited, people with alcohol problems in this age group are unlikely to come forward for fear of punishment” (78). On the other hand the cons say that a lower drinking age does not help alleviate alcohol problems among youths, but it makes them worse. This implies that more teenage drinkers inevitably results in more teenagers with alcohol problems (Trapp 78). In addition it can be seen that if this age is decreased then teens would be drinking even more if the legal age was lowered.
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