Alcohol and violence

There’s no doubt that alcohol and violence go hand in hand. In over half of all cases of assault, the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In one third of cases, the victim had been drinking, too. And it’s often young people who are involved.

You’re more likely to get into fights when you’re drunk

People who are drunk are more likely to fall victim to unprovoked violence than those who are sober, maybe because you aren’t as good at keeping an eye on things when you’re drunk. If you were sober, you might avoid eye contact or take a different route if you encounter someone who wants to fight. When you’re drunk, your protective mechanisms may not work as well as they normally do.

One of the major facts for success in our work with alcohol-related violence has involved interventions with young people who’ve got hold of alcohol illegally. Police seizures of alcohol have been shown to have a clear impact on the number of violent crimes in the areas studied.

Peter Ågren, Södermalm District Police Commissioner, Stockholm

It’s usually boys

Boys are more commonly involved in violence than girls, with 11 per cent of boys and 4 per cent of girls in year 2 of upper secondary school who drink alcohol saying that they have ended up in a fight when they’ve been drinking.

Most fights where alcohol is involved happen in town

Most fights involve two young males of more or less the same age. The reason for the fight is often trivial – supporting a different football team or accidentally barging into someone. Much of the violence takes place in public spaces, such as in and around food outlets that are open late at night or on public transport. It’s also common in the sort of places where a lot of young people gather – at parties, in parks, or during festivals. Talk to your teenager about this and tell them the sad facts of life. It can be useful for your son or daughter to know the truth to ensure they don’t expose themselves to unnecessary risks.

All your emotions come to the surface when you're drunk and you tell people what you really think. And then some people get mad and you end up with a fight.

Paulina, aged 15, Örebro

Staying sober reduces the risk

Not drinking alcohol is a good way of avoiding fights. Alcohol not only lowers your awareness of what’s happening around you, it reduces your ability to interpret a situation, making it harder to spot that someone is getting upset or is spoiling for a fight. Most people also feel bigger and tougher when they’re drunk, and they say things they wouldn’t otherwise have said. Equally, it’s easier to get mad and take offence when you’re drunk. But even if it’s usually drunken teenagers who end up in trouble, being sober doesn’t mean you’re risk-free – it is often, sad to say, about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You might like to suggest to your teenager that they should avoid hanging out in places where violence might be more likely to flare up. Think about the time of day, too – the majority of cases of assault occur in public spaces at night (between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.), when one of the people involved is under the influence of alcohol.

More to read about the same topic

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

Back to The Teenage Phrasebook home page