Alcohol use at the cusp of adolescence: A prospective national birth cohort study of prevalence and risk factors

Jennifer L. Maggs, Jeremy Staff, Megan E. Patrick, Laura Wray-Lake, John E. Schulenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose To estimate the prevalence of alcohol use at the age of 10-11 years and document variation by early sociodemographic and concurrent alcohol-specific risk factors. Methods The Millennium Cohort Study is a prospective, nationally representative study of live births in the United Kingdom across 12 months. A random sample of electoral wards was stratified to adequately represent U.K. countries, economically deprived areas, and areas with high concentrations of Asian and Black British families. A total of 12,305 child-mother pairs provided self-report data at 9 months (mother's marital status, age, education, occupational level; child gender, ethnicity, country) and age 10-11 years (adolescent alcohol use and attitudes). Results After adjusting for attrition and sampling design, 13.4% of 10- to 11-year-olds had had an alcoholic drink (more than few sips), 1.2% had felt drunk, and.6% had five or more drinks at a time. Odds of ever drinking were higher among boys (1.47, 95% confidence interval, 1.29-1.68) and lower among early adolescents who were Asian British (vs. white;.09,.05-.17) or Black British (.42,.29-.62). Beyond sociodemographic differences, more positive attitudes about alcohol were associated with greater odds of drinking (1.70, 1.51-1.91), feeling drunk (2.96, 2.07-4.24), and having five or more drinks (4.20, 2.66-6.61). Conclusions Alcohol use in the last year of primary school was identified but not common. Its use varied by sociodemographic groups; early adolescents with more positive alcohol attitudes had especially high risks of early alcohol initiation. Results support calls for increased surveillance and screening for very early drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-645
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Millennium Cohort Study was supported primarily by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK). Alcohol use measures were supported by National Institutes of Health (US) grant R01 AA019606. Data are available from UCL-Institute of Education, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Millennium Cohort Study: Fifth Survey, 2012 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], February 2014. SN: 7464, . The authors are grateful to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education for the use of these data and to the UK Data Archive and Economic and Social Data Service for making them available. However, they bear no responsibility for the analysis or interpretation of these data. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the critical reading of the manuscript by Dr. Jim McCambridge. A poster presentation of these results was presented at the June 2014 meetings of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Seattle, WA.

Funding Information:
This research was supported primarily by the Economic and Social Research Council (United Kingdom) and National Institutes of Health (US) grant R01 AA019606 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.


  • Age of onset
  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol expectancies
  • Binge drinking
  • Drunkenness
  • Early adolescent
  • Millennium cohort study
  • Prevalence


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