Adolescent Development and Alcohol


Adolescence is synonymous with change.

  • It is the period of one’s life when an individual changes physiologically, emotionally, socially, and academically from a child in a protected environment to an independently functioning adult.
  • It is a time to learn how to deal with success and failure, praise and rejection, happiness and disappointment, frustration and confrontation.
  • It is a time to make choices and deal with the consequences of those choices while still in a semi-controlled and semi-protected environment.

Traditionally, this time frame was believed to start at approximately 12 years of age and to be completed by 18 years of age.

In the past several years, there has been considerable discussion that this time frame has broadened, with the onset beginning at 8-10 years of age and extending into one’s 20s, especially for the emotional and social developmental components.


Adolescence is synonymous with change.

Thus, any substance which, with repeated use, impacts or negatively interferes with this developmental trajectory is very serious cause for concern. If one turns to the use of alcohol to avoid or blunt the negative experiences or to try to enhance the positive experiences of adolescence, he/she never learns these lessons and the coping mechanisms necessary to successfully manage them.

He/she emerges from this critical developmental period as an “adult adolescent.”

Furthermore, it is extremely difficult, and for many it is impossible, to go back as an adult and relearn those crucial lessons and skills.

Avoiding alcohol use or at least minimising drinking during adolescence will allow natural development to occur.

See also;


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