BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Scientific understanding of the forces involved in the decades-long decline of adolescent alcohol use in the United States is limited. This study examines specific changes in US adolescent frequent binge drinking (FBD) by age (variation due to maturation), period (variation across time that does not covary across age), and cohort (variation common to adolescents born around the same time).
METHODS: We analyzed nationally representative, multicohort data from 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students sampled between 1991 and 2015 from Monitoring the Future (n = 1 065 022) to estimate age, period, and cohort effects on adolescents' FBD (defined as ≥2 occasions of ≥5 drinks in a row during the past 2 weeks). Age-Period-Cohort analyses were stratified by sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES). Trends in the associations between demographics and FBD across historical time were examined.
RESULTS: Decreases in FBD during adolescence were attributable to period and cohort effects independent of age variations. Birth cohorts between 1985 and 1990 showed the greatest decline in FBD. The Age-Period-Cohort results were consistent across sex, race/ethnicity, and SES, with the exception of slower declines seen among African American adolescents compared with white adolescents since 2007. We also found convergence in FBD by sex and divergence by SES.
CONCLUSIONS: Recent declines in adolescent FBD have been driven by period and cohort effects. Attention is warranted for the slower declines in FBD seen among African American adolescents since 2007, a narrowing difference by sex, and a growing gap by SES.