Teenagers take alcohol cue from parents
Teenagers given alcohol by their parents in their early teens are three times more likely to drink heavily by their late teens than those from families who do not supply alcohol, a new study has found.
Researchers at Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Center (NDRAC) surveyed 2,000 teenagers over a four year period and found that one in six were given alcohol by their parents, mainly small sips, at the ages of 12 and 13.
By the ages of 15 and 16 over a third of all teenagers were given alcohol by their parents, with 21% given sips and 15% full serves.
The study showed that overall, 29% of teenagers were drinking full serves by the ages of 15 and 16 with half of them obtaining the alcohol from older siblings or friends.
The study found that the 15 and 16-year-olds who were given alcohol by their parents at age 12 and 13 were three times more likely to be drinking full serves than those whose parents had not given them alcohol.
Speaking to the ABC, Professor Richard Mattick, from the NDARC at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said many parents believed that introducing their children to alcohol could promote responsible drinking in later life.
“A lot of parents arguably or reportedly say they’re doing it so they can teach responsible drinking,” said Mattick.
“But we’re just finding that rather than moderating drinking, kids are drinking more,” he said.
“If their aim is to moderate their child’s drinking, providing alcohol probably does the reverse.”
Professor Mattick said quality data on the subject had not existed previously and the findings had not been anticipated by the research team.
“It’s quite plausible that trying to get your kids to drink in a responsible fashion can be a great idea,” said Mattick.
“It’s just the evidence suggests that if you are trying to moderate their drinking, giving them alcohol actually does the reverse,” he said.
“What we are seeing is the rates of drinking are three times [what] you would expect if parents didn’t give alcohol.”
Mattick suggested the results should be used to raise awareness: “It is important that parents be aware we’re not telling them what they should or shouldn’t do, but they should be aware that if they supply alcohol to their kids they are three times more likely to have a child that’s drinking whole beverages than if they don’t.”
“And it shouldn’t surprise us that a permissive attitude is one that makes the kids think that, ‘Well it’s OK to drink, so then, well, I can drink more’,” said Mattick.
Australian Drug Foundation spokesman Geoff Munro said other studies had shown that the earlier people start drinking, the more harm it can do, reported the ABC.
“The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) states that young people should avoid drinking, and to put it off as long as possible, at least until the age of 18,” said Munro.
“They are still developing physically, emotionally, cognitively. Alcohol is a product designed for adults, and [the research states that] young people are best avoiding alcohol for as long as possible,” he said.
The results from the parental supply of alcohol study were presented at the NDARC’s annual symposium in Sydney.