Vocational education paths, youth activities, and underage drinking in Russia: How early does the trouble start?
Working-class educational paths tend to be associated with elevated drinking. Little research has examined whether disproportionate alcohol use among vocationally oriented youth begins before or after the start of their vocational education. The present study analyzes a large sample of Russian middle-school students (N = 1269; mean age = 14.9), comparing the patterns of drinking among middle-schoolers oriented towards vocational educational, and their peers who do not plan a vocational education path. Results suggest that the orientation towards vocational education is associated with disproportionately high alcohol involvement among Russian middle-school students, even before they enter vocational schools. We studied if such difference could be partially explained by how youth orient towards extracurricular activities: discretionary peer time in risky contexts, reading for pleasure, working for pay, and religious activities. Reading demonstrated the strongest (negative) association with alcohol use, while religious activity unexpectedly revealed a positive (though weak) association with drinking. Research and policy implications are discussed.