Parents put kids at risk by giving alcohol too young

15th December, 2017 by Melita Kiely

Parents who allow their children to sample alcohol by the age of 14 are putting them at risk of heavier use in later life and other problem behaviours, new research warns.

Parents who allow their children to sample alcohol by the age of 14 are putting them at risk of early initiation, heavier use in later life and other problem behaviours, research suggests

Parents are putting children at risk by giving them alcohol by age 14, study suggests

A total of 10,210 children and parents participated in the ongoing Millennium Cohort Study, providing data from when the child was an infant to 14 years old.

The results, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that approximately 17% of parents permitted their young adolescents to drink alcohol.

This was more common among employed, more educated and non-abstaining parents of white children. There was no variation in parents permitting adolescents to try alcohol by child gender, teenage or single parenthood, or changes in parental consumption levels.

Professor Jennifer Maggs, the study’s lead author, said: “Parents of socially advantaged children may believe that allowing children to drink will teach them responsible use or may in fact inoculate them against dangerous drinking. However, there is little research to support these ideas.

Other experts, including the chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, also warned that alcohol can harm children “given their bodies and brains are not yet fully developed”, and called for better guidance for parents.

Dr John Larsen, director of evidence and impact at Drinkaware, said: “Alcohol can harm children’s development so the best childhood is one that is alcohol free.

“Parents and guardians have an important role to play in helping children and young people learn about alcohol and Drinkaware research shows that 13-17-year-olds turn to the adults in their lives for help and advice on drinking and its effects.

“While each parent or carer may choose to approach talking to their teenagers about alcohol in different ways, it’s helpful to have clear rules and to keep the conversations open and honest.

“Drinkaware has free resources available for parents who may be unsure on how to start a conversation with their child or how to answer difficult questions they may have.”

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