Teenage Alcohol Use and Educational Attainment

OBJECTIVE: Using data from the National Child Development Study, an ongoing longitudinal birth cohort study of British youth born in 1958 (N = 9,107), we investigated the long-term impact of heavy alcohol use at age 16 years on educational qualifications in adulthood. METHOD: We used a propensity score matching approach to examine whether and for whom heavy alcohol use predicted reduced adult educational attainment. Because of gender differences in both heavy drinking and adult socioeconomic attainment, we examined the effects of heavy drinking on educational outcomes separately for females and males. RESULTS: Heavy drinking in adolescence (measured in 1974) had a direct negative effect on the receipt of postsecondary educational credentials by age 42 years among males but not females, independent of child and adolescent risk factors correlated with both heavy drinking and educational attainment. In particular, males from working-class backgrounds were most affected by heavy drinking. CONCLUSIONS: Drawing on a life span developmental contextual approach, we find that heavy teenage alcohol use and disadvantaged social origins combined to diminish male educational attainment. In contrast, heavy alcohol use had little effect on female educational attainment.