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Educating children about alcohol

Published: 
26 April 2002

Health Education Researchers at the University of Southampton are leading the way in educating primary school children about the dangers of alcohol misuse.

There are growing concerns regarding young people's alcohol consumption and related behaviours, illustrated by the recent Youth at Risk study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The study showed that youngsters under the age of 13 are regularly indulging in binge drinking.

Visiting Fellows Noreen Wetton and Margaret Collins from the University's Health Education Unit at the Research and Graduate School of Education are already responding to these concerns by developing and using a unique way of discovering what primary school children know about alcohol and alcohol related behaviour, and how this knowledge changes and grows.

Their work has been funded by Surrey Local Education Authority which invited Noreen to develop a research methodology for tapping into the perceptions and misperceptions of alcohol and alcohol related behaviour using a sample of 1,000 Surrey pupils aged 4-11.

The key messages from each age range have been extracted and will soon be published. Noreen said: "Once again we are finding out that the children know much more that people imagine.

"Some of the most important discoveries are the misperceptions the children have about alcoholic drinks; for example, Red Bull appears in the children's lists of alcoholic drinks from the age of seven. In contrast, their understanding of what people do when they have had too much to drink is very clear. From the age of 8 years they increasingly draw and describe dangerous, risky and illegal behaviours."

Noreen will be presenting the research findings to a National Conference 'A Sober Approach-reducing the risk of alcohol use and misuse by young people on 30 April in London. Noreen and Margaret are writing up the research as a handbook to be made available to teachers and health professionals across Surrey. It is then hoped to be made available to a wider audience.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £215 million.

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