Alcohol and Drinking - Challenging the Legal Drinking Age

Challenging the Legal Drinking Age

Do the current laws involving the age at which adults can start drinking really make sense? There are many reasons why the government changed the legal drinking age to 21, but has this actually caused a decrease in the amount of alcohol consumed by persons between 18 and 21? Alcohol related crime and traffic accidents have gone down in recent years, but the source of this drop may not simply have to do with raising the drinking age, as the government would like you to believe. There is a theory in psychology called the Reactance Theory, which disagrees with the idea that by making more restrictive laws, drinking will slow down.

The government's intent to lowering the legal drinking age was to decrease the number of negative outcomes resulting from irresponsible alcohol use (Allen 34). By limiting the consumption of younger individuals, they thought that alcohol related traffic accidents and crimes committed by younger people could be reduced. Since the last state adopted the 21 and over law for drinking, these activities have decreased. But is it because of the new laws, or other factors?

The government would like us to believe that the new laws governing underage drinking are completely dependant on the new laws, but there are other factors as well. The overall crime rate, not just crimes committed by youths, has decreased. When you statistically correlate the amount of crimes committed between 1987 and 1996, compared to the overall crime rate, there isn't much of a decrease of crimes committed while younger people were under the influence of alcohol. This shows that crime rates have had little effect, but what is the explanation that there ar...

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...least some alcohol before they were 21, and I'm sure they didn't find anything wrong with it. The government should take a more common sense approach to making laws of this type and not succumb to political interferences.

Works Cited

Aabacus DUI & Defensive Driving School. "Underage Age Drinking Statistics">

Allen, Daniel, David Spenkel, and Patrick Vitale. "Reactance Theory and Alcohol Consumption Laws." Journal of Studies on Alcohol 57 (July 1996): 34-40

Kassin, Saul. Psychology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998

Miller, Peter. "Measurement of Alcohol and Tobacco Availability to Underage Students." Addictive Behaviors 21 (Sept/Oct 1996): 585-95

Roeper, Peter and Voas, Robert. "Underage Drivers Are Separating Drinking From Driving." American Journal of Public Health 89 (May 1999): 755-73.

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