Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Alcohol Use among Students from Boarding Schools in Comparison to Students from Day Schools

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Alcohol Use among Students from Boarding Schools in Comparison to Students from Day Schools

Article excerpt

Introduction

Alcohol use increases sharply during adolescence and male adolescents tend to drink more than their female peers (1, 2). Recently, the German Federal Center for Health Education (1) calculated the 30-day prevalence of alcohol use in 12- to 17-year-olds. Approximately 41% of the assessed adolescents drank alcohol in this time period. The authors reported that alcohol consumption among German 12- to 17-year-olds had declined in recent years compared to previous assessments from 2004 to 2011, and that they had not found significant differences between different school tracks. Alcohol use is associated with numerous health and social risks, such as alcohol dependence, road accidents, unwanted (teenage) pregnancy, violent behaviour, and truancy (3, 4).

The most proximal factors for engaging in drinking are drinking motives (5). Drinking motives can be classified along two underlying dimensions reflecting the valence (positive or negative) and the source (internal or external) of the outcomes individuals expect to achieve by drinking. Crossing these two dimensions results in four different drinking motive categories: 1) internally generated, positive reinforcement motives (enhancement of positive feelings), 2) externally generated, positive reinforcement motives (promotion of social ties), 3) externally generated, negative reinforcement motives (conformity), and 4) internally generated, negative reinforcement motives (coping with stress). Higher scores in drinking motives are associated with higher use of alcohol (5).

Adolescents often consume alcohol in the peer context (6). Therefore, more time spent with peers can be expected to lead to higher consumption of alcohol. Students who do not live with their parents but in a boarding school spend more time with their peers than students from regular schools. Thus, some researchers have suggested that students from boarding schools are more likely to turn to alcohol and drug abuse than students from regular schools (7). Brasfield (8) even spoke of a 'residential school syndrome' because students from boarding schools drink large amounts of alcohol.

A short introduction to boarding schools

Boarding schools provide a semi-permanent institution for education, accommodation, and food for students (9). Rules of boarding schools are mostly based on the Youth Protection Law (10). In Germany, there are approximately 240 boarding schools (11). Single rooms are the exception in these facilities (12). Boarding schools have different benefactors, such as registered associations (in the case of German Rural School Halls of Residence; RSHR) or the Protestant and Catholic Church. Rules in church-founded boarding schools are in particular based on Christian attitudes. Larger proportions of students from some RSHRs are financed by Youth Welfare Offices as a result of having serious problems at home or in their previous school. Such students can also be found in other kinds of boarding school, however (12, 13). Different reasons may lead parents to send their children to boarding schools. In Western countries, the most known reasons are parental mobility (e.g., living abroad), former problems in day school or at home, and maintenance or improvement of social status (by sending children to prestigious schools) (10). In contrast, some African parents might send their children to a boarding school, because of large distance between their place of living and the location of schools. Boarding schools are not the same as residential homes. While students from boarding schools attend the same school and live together during term time, students from residential homes live together but usually do not attend the same school (14). In addition, residential homes commonly provide accommodation for a shorter time period than boarding schools (15).

Research on alcohol use in boarding schools

Few studies have examined alcohol use in boarding schools. An older study from the United States (US) by Timmerman, Wells and Chen (16) showed that the percentage of students who drank alcohol was at least two times higher in a boarding school than in a Catholic day school and two public high schools. …

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