Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Parental Perspectives on Alcohol Use among School-Aged Children in Ghana

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Parental Perspectives on Alcohol Use among School-Aged Children in Ghana

Article excerpt

Parental Perspectives on Alcohol Use among School-Aged Children in Ghana

Research indicates that the misuse and abuse of alcohol causes problems not only for the health of the abuser but also for that person's family as well. (1) Furthermore, the literature on alcohol indicates that its consumption results in a variety of problems, including highway traffic fatalities. (2) Chronic alcohol abuse is linked to mild problems such as hangovers and to very severe problems such as attempts to commit suicide. (3)

Research indicated that children who begin to drink at an early age have a higher risk of developing health problems in adulthood. (4,5) Both the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (6) and the work of Hingson and colleagues (7) indicated that children who drink before the age of 14 have a propensity to drink more than those who begin drinking at age 17 or older and that early drinkers are more likely to drink to intoxication when in high school. The frequent use of alcohol, as pointed out by these researchers starts in stages and progresses to total dependence, which can cause many more health problems.

The work of DeWit and associates, (4) Hingson and coworkers, (7) and Young and associates (5) has shown that some of the problems produced by early drinking include developing an addiction to alcohol within 10 years, being diagnosed as addicted by age 21, and having major life problems by age 25. Research by DeWit et al. (4) found that a person who uses alcohol at age 14 years or younger is susceptible to developing alcohol disorders later in life. DeWit and colleagues recommend policies that delay the first use of alcohol to later years in order to avert the onset of alcohol-related problems later in life. (4)

Young and coworkers (5) compared factors that contribute to drinking, such as being part of a higher education environment, living in a rural area, coming from homes where alcohol is abused, experiencing abuse during childhood (i.e., emotional or sexual abuse), experiencing domestic violence, and early use of alcohol, among young men who were entering the U.S. Marine. They concluded that the strongest risk factor for abusing alcohol is initiation to alcohol use before the age of 13. Also, according to Gordon and colleagues, (2) the use of alcohol by children and having problems stemming from that use can be attributed to being raised in homes with adults who drink.

Studies relating the use of alcohol to academic performance indicated that such use has a profound influence on academic achievement. For example, Howell and coworkers (8) found that prenatal exposure to alcohol that did not even result in a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome was linked to learning and academic problems in children. Elsewhere, Hingson and associates (7) found that use of alcohol was associated with falling grades as well as risk behaviors such as not wearing a seat belt, carrying weapons, engaging in a fight, and having unprotected sex.

In some African countries, and in Ghana in particular, access to alcoholic drink and drinking alcohol is socially accepted (9,17) In Africa, alcoholic drinks are also consumed at funerals and important celebrations such as festivals, marriages, and naming ceremonies for children. (10) Varieties of alcoholic drinks are easily available in Ghana, and are inexpensive, and can be afforded by many people, even children. The question that might be raised is whether this situation has harmful effects on the development of children and adolescents, including their academic progress. In Ghana, several local alcoholic beverages have a high alcohol content, such as akpeteshie (a kind of gin, 50% alcohol by volume), palm wine (5.2% alcohol by volume), and pito (millet wine, 3% alcohol by volume). The availability of such cheap and high alcoholic drinks puts children at risk of drinking. (11) However, given the many problems associated with drinking by children, (4,7) and recognizing the fact that children have a tendency to learn unhealthy lifestyles at an early age and carry on such lifestyles to adulthood, (13) the situation in Ghana may have unforeseen consequences. …

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