Friday, December 21, 2001

Project wants underage
drinking to be all pau

Project PAU targets isle parents
to help them help their kids

By Leila Fujimori

One of the biggest barriers that some Hawaii parents had in teaching their children about drinking was their own alcohol consumption, a new study on underage drinking says.

"When my son got drunk ... I asked him why a couple of days later. And he said, 'Because I wanted to be happy like you,'" the study quoted one Oahu parent as saying.

The parents did not want to look like hypocrites or portray drinkers as bad people, according to the focus group study released yesterday by Project PAU (Preventing Alcohol Use Among Youths).

But Sgt. Robert Lung of the Honolulu Police Department Traffic Safety Division, chairman of Project PAU, said parents talking about underage drinking with their children does not make them hypocrites. "It makes them responsible," he said.

Few participants knew how widespread the problem of underage drinking really is, said Karen Glanz, principal investigator for Project PAU, a statewide council of about 40 members representing each county and many organizations that deal with minors and alcohol.

More than 80 percent of Hawaii's 12th-graders and 31 percent of sixth-graders have used alcohol, while alcohol-related car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, she said.

For the study, Project PAU convened focus groups of 10 parents each on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island to examine their attitudes on how to prevent underage drinking.

Each discussion lasted up to two hours and included participants who averaged 41 years of age and were mostly female. All had children living at home between the ages of 9 and 17, researchers said.

In addition to feeling like hypocrites, other barriers to educating their children included the fact that alcohol is a legal substance and is socially accepted, the study found. A third barrier was that the media glamorizes drinking, researchers said.

The results of the federally funded study helped to identify ways to encourage parents to talk to their children about underage drinking, Glanz said.

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