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An Interview with Dr. Carlson Smith on Underage Drinking

In my topic ‘underage drinking,’ I chose Dr. Carlson Smith as the interviewee. Dr. Smith is a specialist in psychology and he tells us that underage drinking is strongly tied to the mental framework of the individual. I began my interview by asking how he perceived underage people in terms of drinking. He tells us that since young people relatively have young minds in terms of how they deal with others and with their society at large, their behaviors reflect the mental perceptions that they have.

In particular, underage people from as young as twelve years old to eighteen years old are prone to the habit of drinking precisely because of the stage that they are into. The teenage stage is a delicate stage in the development of the personhood because it is the stage of our lives where young people begin to reinforce what they have learned during their younger years with what they are presently learning. Any introduction of habits which deform the physical, emotional and mental well-being of a young person can strongly trigger a negative consequence in the way in which that person views life.

Dr. Smith gave great emphasis on the fact that the society plays a vital role in molding the personality of a young person. The more crucial role, as Dr. Smith points out, is that peers and relatives oftentimes influence the behavior of an underage person. More often than not, the more a person is exposed to peers and relatives who have certain bad habits and other forms of vices, the more that person begins to acquire those traits.

Hence, if a fifteen year old girl who usually mingles with peers who have strong drinking habits is more likely to be influenced and blend into the group. Indeed, Dr. Smith points out that if an underage person has strong personal attachments to his or her ‘habituated’ peers, it is most likely that such a personal attachment can pave the way for the person to eventually accept his or her peers and be just like one of them. More the effects of ‘bad’ peers can bring, a person’s relatives who are inclined to the vice of drinking can give more harmful effects to the underage individual.

Assuming that an underage individual spends more time with his or her relatives than with other people beyond the family circle, there is strong reason to believe that the person will be ‘absorbing’ not only the traits of the family members but also their drinking vices. Moreover, granted that the underage person has strong emotional bonds with the family, a family with strong drinking habits, whether or not such habits are part of the family orientation, will most certainly influence the person. Dr.

Smith also points out that more to the exposure to the vice of drinking either from relatives or from peers the vice becomes incorporated as a normal part of the person’s life through habituation. The habituation of drinking, Dr. Smith says, can take place in many forms, from constant drinking from occasions to consuming alcoholic drinks on a regular basis even when there is no occasion. Nevertheless, all these things essentially boil down to the idea that a constant exposure to alcoholic drinks and a constant intake can primarily trigger a certain ‘addiction’ to the substance.

At the least, a lack of control on the part of the underage person can increase the chances of underage drinking and its habituation. Dr. Smith also makes it clear that for a person to either resist or submit to the habit of drinking, the aspect of ‘self-control’ is a crucial factor. Eventually, it will have to be taught by family members at first or by peers in other cases since the aspect of self-control is not an inherent characteristic.

Thus, if an underage person grew up in a family which has not effectively taught the aspect of self-control on certain actions or decisions, there is a strong reason to believe that the person will eventually grow ‘weak’ and become easily swayed by any vice such as habituated drinking that might come along the way. However, if the person grows up in an environment which promotes well-being and does not tolerate drinking, the person is most likely to have a strong self-control in resisting the habit of consuming alcoholic drinks. One thing, though, which Dr.

Smith makes certain is that although an underage person who lives in a environment of vice who also has a strong sense of self-control may tend to be able to resist drinking in contrast to a person who lives in a vice-free environment but has poor self-control. Take for instance the situation where two underage individuals—one who has self-control but has lived in an environment of the vice of drinking and one who has very minimal self-control but has lived in a vice-free environment—are placed in a situation where both are given alcoholic drinks. Dr.

Smith explains that the first individual will tend to have more chances of resisting the drink being offered than the second individual. The reason behind this, Dr. Smith says, is that having the trait of self-control will result to having the tendency to resist whereas the lack of self-control will result to otherwise. The family background or the environment that the underage person grew-up in has little bearing on these instances. As to why the family background or the environment has little or no bearing on cases of the presence of alcoholic drinks to the previous example, Dr.

Smith tells us that the initial tendency of the underage person, whether in a conscious or sub-conscious manner, is to draw upon the inner characteristics as bases for the corresponding decisions. Given the previous example, Dr. Smith raises the point that a solid self-control will greatly affect the corresponding decision of the individual, whether to accept the alcoholic drinks being offered or not. The lack of a solid self-control will ultimately result to the opposite scenario. In these instances, the family background or the environment of the underage person will take a lesser role just below the initial tendencies of the person.

As to what ‘mental framework’ Dr. Smith is referring to, he explains that it is the by-product of the family background and environment of the underage person as well as it is the result of one’s social interactions. Mental framework essentially refers to the person’s attitude toward certain things or events, based upon previous dealings and experiences with one’s social and personal environment. Hence, since an underage person is still in the development stages towards adulthood, that person still has a ‘growing’ attitude.

Although it might be the case that the attitude of individuals may change with time, Dr. Smith however says that because the teenage year is a crucial formative stage in the establishment of a more mature attitude as one grows up, the development during these ‘underage’ years will have a great and lasting impact on one’s attitude as one nears adulthood. Thus, an underage drinker will most likely be an adult drunkard some time in the future, unless that person takes a shift in attitude which is, by all means, a feat to surmount. Dr.

Smith also explains that most underage individuals become alcoholic drinkers because of certain problems and worries which cause them great stress and anxiety. As a way to temporarily detach from the world of problems and with the influence of peers, underage people resort to consuming alcoholic drinks. At the end of the day, these underage individuals may realize that the consumption of alcoholic drinks won’t be of any help or may have the perception that it is the least that they can do to relieve themselves of their emotions sufferings.

Moreover, without the proper guidance of parents or without the comforting reminders of peers, underage people burdened with certain emotional stress may face the risk of habituating the consumption of alcoholic drinks and eventually have a form of ‘dependency’ on the alcoholic substance. In the interview, Dr. Carlson Smith reveals several interesting facts and insights into the case of underage drinking, stressing the idea that the attitude of underage people, or their mental framework, has a lot to do with the way they approach and perceive drinking, which I definitely agree with.

Reference

C. Smith (personal communication, March 24, 2008)

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