PIRE Publication - Relationships between social host laws and underage drinking: findings from a study of 50 California cities


Objective: Many states and local communities have enacted social host (SH) laws to reduce underage drinking in private settings. However, little is known about whether such laws are effective. This study examined relationships between city SH laws and underage drinking in general and at parties in private settings. Method: SH policy data were collected for 50 California cities in 2009, and SH policies were rated for comprehensiveness and stringency. Annual telephone interviews were conducted with a cohort of 1,483 adolescents (ages 13-16 at Wave 1) from 2009 to 2011 to assess past-year alcohol use, heavy drinking, and drinking at parties. Multilevel analyses were first conducted for the total sample to examine relationships between SH laws and adolescents' past-year drinking, with other city and individual characteristics controlled for. Parallel analyses were then conducted for a subsample of 667 youth who had reported any past-year drinking. Results: SH policy ratings were unrelated to any of the past-year drinking outcomes for the total sample of adolescents. However, among past-year drinkers, a stronger SH policy was inversely related to drinking at parties (β = -.06, p < .05) but was unrelated to past-year alcohol use and heavy drinking in general. There were no moderating effects of SH policy on change in adolescents' past-year drinking over the 3-year period. Conclusions: Local SH policies that include strict liability and civil penalties that are imposed administratively may be associated with less frequent underage drinking in private settings, particularly among adolescents who have already initiated alcohol use.;

Paschall, Mallie J.
Lipperman-Kreda, Sharon
Grube, Joel W.
Thomas, Sue