It’s illegal, so why do people do it? FARE funds research into supplying underage drinkers

Despite it being illegal, adult friends, relatives or strangers supply nearly 60 per cent of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers.

With $20,000 in funding from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), the University of Wollongong will soon find out why they continue to flout the law.

The research project, the first of its kind in Australia, will conduct an online survey with 400 adults in NSW to explore why they don’t comply with the law. By understanding their motivation, the research can be used to inform educational and communication interventions to change the drinking environment for young people.

The project will be led by Professor Sandra Jones, the Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives at Wollongong University, whose four-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship addresses social norms around underage drinking.

Professor Jones said that previous research had shown that five major motivational factors impact on people’s compliance with laws – deterrence, social norms, personal morality, perceived legitimacy of authorities and procedural justice.

“International evidence suggests that there are differences with what some people call ‘milder’ laws such as speeding, minor traffic offences and music piracy,” she said.

“The online survey will also explore motivational factors in non?compliance with two other behaviours – speeding, another law that many people choose not to obey, and drink driving, which most people are motivated to comply with.”

FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn said that the study came at an important time in NSW, with the current Liquor Act under review and decision?makers currently considering recommendations from two inquiries into alcohol and young people.

“FARE is pleased to fund this research by the University of Wollongong as one of 12 grants in its current research funding round,” Mr Thorn said.

The grants, to universities, hospitals and medical research institutes throughout Australia, include funding for evaluations, cross-sectoral research projects and pilot studies. Since 2001 FARE has collaborated with a range of leading universities and institutes and invested more than $20 million in research that explores the extent and nature of alcohol harm in Australia. FARE is also the principal supporting partner of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR), investing $5 million in the world?class alcohol policy research institute.

“Developing strong evidence-based policy is critical to reduce alcohol?related harms,” Mr Thorn said.

“FARE’s funding of new research will continue to help governments make informed policy decisions about a range of other alcohol?related harms.”

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