n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Under-age drinking in schools : an exploratory survey

Volume 16, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among young people, surpassing tobacco and illicit drugs. Alcohol is a very powerful, mood altering drug, and its use by teenagers poses very serious health risks, as well as clouding judgement, interfering with the development of social skills and school achievement. For example, research demonstrated that adolescents who abuse alcohol may recall ten percent less of what they have learned than students who do not drink. Moreover, children are beginning to drink at a very young age, sometimes before they have completed primary school. The age at which a person first uses alcohol is a powerful predictor of lifetime alcohol abuse and dependence.

In the first semester of 2000, a structured survey questionnaire was constructed and administered in consultation with members of the Department of Education in Gauteng, Lefase la Rena and learners from District N-3 (now District 4 - Tshwane South) schools in Pretoria. The researchers were able to generate a nonprobability sample by means of the convenience sampling technique consisting of Grade 7, 10 and 11 learners from 35 primary and secondary schools in District 4 - Tshwane South.
The major aims of the study were to identify key concerns regarding tobacco smoking habits, underage drinking and the use of illegal drugs in schools, and to make information available to legitimate and interested stakeholders for the development of problem-solving strategies. The study was exploratory and the purpose was to acquire descriptive information from learners to help schools with the assessment of the underage drinking problem.

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