Parents who give kids alcohol ‘accelerate’ drinking

6th January, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

Children who are given alcohol by their parents are less likely to binge drink by the age of 15 or 16, but are twice as likely to drink full serves, a new study has found.

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Parents who give children alcohol “lay down potential for future harms”

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) followed nearly 2,000 children and their parents over the course of four years, prompted by “widespread” interest in the ‘European model’ of introducing children to alcohol from a young age.

Some believe this model means children are less likely to develop problems with alcohol.

After taking into other factors that could impact adolescent drinking (such as family conflict and anxiety), researchers found that such teens are twice as likely to drink full serves of alcohol.

However, children who got alcohol from adults other than their parents or from their peers were found to be three times more likely to binge drink – that is, drink more than four drinks on a single occasion.

Researchers also discovered that children who displayed personality traits such as aggression and truanting were likely to obtain alcohol, whether their parents supplied it or not.

But certain family and peer factors reduced the odds of drinking, such as parental monitoring, consistent parenting, being religious and peer disapproval of drinking and smoking.

“On the one hand parents who supply alcohol to their children may be relieved that they are significantly less likely to engage in harmful behaviour, such as binge drinking, compared with those who obtain alcohol from other sources, probably as they are drinking more in front of their parents, so drink less on a given occasion,” said UNSW professor Richard Mattick, who led the study.

“However, given that children supplied alcohol by their parents were twice as likely to be drinking full serves a year later as their peers who were not given alcohol by their parents, the results suggest that parents who supply alcohol, even with the best intentions, are likely to accelerate their child’s drinking and be laying down the potential for future harms.

“There may be later harms that are not yet obvious, and we are aware that early initiation of drinking is strongly associated with later alcohol use problems in adulthood – delay is the best strategy.”

A different study recently revealed that underage drinking rates among 12- to 16-year-olds dropped to a “historic low” in the US last year.

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