The aim was to review the empirical research carried out over the last 15 years on the characteristics of young people (10- to 25-year olds) who have specific motives for drinking. In a computer-assisted search of relevant literature, 82 studies were identified. Concerning demographic factors, a developmental trend was found - from general, undifferentiated drinking motives in late childhood and early adolescence to more gender-specific drinking motives in subsequent years. With regard to personality factors, two specific patterns can be distinguished: extraversion and sensation-seeking correlate with enhancement motives, while neuroticism and anxiety correlate most strongly with coping motives. For contextual factors, drinking motives were found to vary across countries but not among different ethnic groups in the same culture. Based on these results, preventive strategies should take into account general, undifferentiated drinking motivation in late childhood, and social and enhancement motives in adolescence, particularly among boys. Findings on personality indicate that it would be useful to focus on extraverted, sensation-seeking boys who drink for enhancement motives and neurotic, anxious girls who drink for coping motives.