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Since the Colonial era, consumption of alcoholic beverages has been a piece of American culture, its use by the youth has been acknowledged by adults as a major aspect of progression towards maturity (NIH, n.d.). This research paper will examine if underage drinking decrease or increase due to the age limit law, and also what theories explain why Juvenile participated in this kind of status offense. After gathering information from scholarly articles and reliable organizational sources, I was able to get an answer. A study was done by the foundation for advancing alcohol responsibility collected statistics that show that the legal age limit set by the government has decreased the consumption of alcohol by Juveniles. During the 1960 ‘s and mid-1970s, numerous States reduced the legitimate drinking age from 21 to 18. In 1988, all States had established the legal alcohol consumption age as 21. However legal age limit did not deter youths from drinking. In order to buy any alcohol drink from a shop, market, alcohol store, bar or club premises you have to show proof that you are 21 years old (NIH, nd.). “Bandura’s Social Learning Theory is one of the theories that is connected to why underage drinking occurs.
The theory states that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation”( Learning Theories, nd.) Underage drinking is classified as a status offense. A status offense is an act that refers to a particular class of individuals. A status offense is connected to an offense committed by minors. The term status offense depicts an unimportant criminal offense, where the intention isn’t an element in choosing blame. Status Offenses consist of running away, abusing curfew restriction laws, drinking liquor or smoking tobacco. According to the Cluster theory, there is so much peer pressure involved with teens decision making. Juveniles either commit offenses or they have sanctions that deter them from crime. A fairly new psychosocial theory, call peer cluster proposes that the socialization factors that accompany adolescent development interact to produce peer clusters that motivate drug involvement or provide sanctions in opposition to drug use.
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These peer clusters are small, very cohesive groupings that form a magnificent deal of adolescent behavior, together with drug use (Oetting, 2012). Peer pressure from teen social surroundings such as friends or families is a factor in Juvenile’s underage alcohol consumption according to the Cluster theory. A book written by the Institute of Medicine national research council stated that. ”Since 21 became the nationwide legal age there has been a significant decrease in drinking, fatal crashes alcohol-related crashes and arrest for driving under the influence”(Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility edited by Richard J Bonnie, N.d.). An article written by Kathleen Michon, J.D stated that status offenses such as underage drinking were handled mainly through the juvenile justice system. By 1960s and 1970s, the status offense was being seen as a warning signal by many states. The warning signal simply stated that a juvenile needed better guidance or other assistance to avoid coming into contact with the law.
Research had connected status offenses to later Juvenile delinquency. Many American states had a method for dealing with status offenses. Most states label status offenders as “children or teens in need of guidance, services, or care.”Some states label a few status offenders as “dependent” or “neglected juveniles,” and allow state welfare programs to have responsibility for them. States have different methods when it comes to dealing with status offenders. In some states, a child who commits a status offense may end up in juvenile court right away without many alternatives. In other states, child welfare agency is the first to handle the issue. A few states have turned to residential efforts for Juveniles, and other states use community programs. In most states, if alternative efforts are unsuccessful the teen will end up going to juvenile court. Strong evidence from NCBI found that toxic peer relationships between Juveniles have a negative impact leading to delinquent behavior. An article was written by pro and constated that, alcohol consumption may disrupt development of young adult brain’s frontal lobes.
The frontal lobes are needed for functions such as emotional regulation, planning, and organization. When drinking happens early in this stage it disrupts the early adult brain development, the risks for chronic problems increases. The legal age limit of 21 due to the statistic by responsibility.org has shown a steady decrease in teen drinking due to the age limit law. The progress prevents a chronic problem and other issues teens may accounter in the future. The article also stated that early teen drinkers are more likely to be addicted to drugs and exhibit dangerous risk-taking behavior. Early Teen drinking reduces good decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence, and suicide is greater. The increase in underage drinking causes a lot of major problems, this is why keeping the legal age is needed. An article written by pro’s and con stated that lowering the drinking age to 18 will allow a large number of teens to drink liquor in bars and nightclubs, which is not safe. A large number of bars have sold alcohol to Juveniles about 76% have been recorded.
The article stated that approximately 1/2 of drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated or killed as alcohol-involved did their drinking in areas with more bars, nightclubs, and other alcohol- establishment suffer more frequent assaults and other violent crimes. According to the MLDA, the legal age limit of 21 not only reduces underage drinking but it also reduces traffic accidents and fatalities. Over 100 of the 102 analyses (98%) in a meta-study of the legal drinking age and traffic accidents found higher legal drinking ages associated with lower rates of traffic accidents. In the 30 years since MLDA 21 was introduced, drunk driving fatalities decreased by a third. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that MLDA 21 has saved 31,417 lives from 1975-2016. The American public overwhelmingly supports MLDA 21. A survey for the Center for Alcohol Policy found that 86% of Americans support the legal drinking age being set at 21.  Numerous state and national surveys dating from the 1970s (when states were raising the legal drinking age) through the present have shown overwhelming public support for MLDA 21. Lowering MLDA 21 would give high schoolers and even middle schoolers easier access to alcohol. Newly-legal drinkers often purchase alcohol for their underage peers, creating a “trickle-down” effect.  Surveys show that the most common source of alcohol among 18- to 20-year olds is their 21- to 24-year-old peers.  MLDA 21 helps prevent underage binge drinking. Binge drinking peaks among 21- to 25-year-olds at 45.4%, while the binge drinking rates of those aged 12-13, 14-15, 16-17, and 18-20 are 0.3%, 3.7%, 10.2%, and 26.2% respectively. MLDA 21 exerts valuable social pressure on potential underage drinkers and those who may serve them. Youth may choose not to drink, or to drink less often, because of decreased social acceptability or increased risks from parental or legal authorities. Older youth and adults may furnish alcoholic beverages to minors less frequently, and licensed alcohol outlets may sell to minors less frequently, because of their perceptions that it is illegal, morally wrong, or because they might be caught. The MLDA should stay at 21 because people tend to be more mature and responsible at 21 than 18. 18-year-olds are typically entering a new phase of independence from their parents through college or the workforce, and are more susceptible to binge drinking, risky sexual activity, and other irresponsible behavior due to lack of maturity.
Lowering the drinking age will invite more use of illicit drugs among 18-21-year-olds. A peer-reviewed study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that the younger a person begins to drink alcohol the more likely it is that they will use other illicit drugs. Lowering MLDA 21 would increase the number of teens who drink and therefore the number of teens who use other drugs. Since the mid-1930’s, the legal drinking age in the United States has been set at 21. But during the Vietnam War, in consideration of young people in military service, 29 states lowered the legal drinking age. As a result, there was no uniform drinking age, with some states choosing 18, 19, or 20, and some states also putting restrictions on types of beverages that could be purchased such as beer and wine or limited the right to on-premise sales only, etc.As a result of these changes, there was a marked increase in car fatalities where young people and drinking was involved. This patchwork of laws also led to problems at state borders, creating significant risk for teens that would drive to an adjacent state to obtain or consume alcohol. For instance, Wisconsin allowed liquor sales to 18-year-olds, and Illinois did not, and it is not uncommon to hear local adults tell stories, some tragic, of their youth and driving back and forth to Wisconsin to drink. Under Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1984, the Uniform Drinking Age Act was passed, creating a mandatory requirement for all states to establish the drinking age at 21 within 5 years.
Funding for highway construction was tied to compliance, providing a strong incentive, but the concern about teen drinking and driving was the most compelling reason for the change all states compiled. The age of majority, also called the “legal” age, across the country is 18 years, and includes rights for medical information and decisions, voting, entering into contracts, and so forth. Some restrictions on rights, privileges, and accountability do vary by state or across the nation from 16-35; examples are the age one can rent a car (25), age considered an adult in an arrest (17), age of consent (can marry, have sex 16 with permission, 18 without), the age one can run for the state legislature (18 to 21), the age one can be held responsible for a contract (21), age one can run for US elected positions (House of Representatives, 25, Senate 30, President 35), and so forth. Some states, such as Ohio, allow alcohol consumption in establishments by minors when parents are present; most allow parents to serve alcohol to their children in their own homes. All states have penalties for fake id possession, sale, or use, and most consider this a felony. Even so, many high school and college students report that they have a fake id for purposes of obtaining alcohol. According to all the stats and articles, underage drinking is currently decreasing over the years. The legal age limit clearly does not deter juveniles from drinking, putting the age limit down to 18 will cause them to commit more status offense and even delinquent and criminal acts but keeping the age limit to 21 will at least decrease the number of status offenses.
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