According to a new study, children who get a taste of their parents’ drinks now and then are more likely than their peers to start drinking by high school.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the Rhode Island-based Brown University, states that children who are allowed occasional sips of alcohol are more likely to start drinking by the time they’re in high school.
Kristina Jackson, researcher at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at the Brown University, and the lead author of the study, said, “At that age, some kids may have difficulty understanding the difference between a sip of wine and having a full beer. Some parents do believe in the ‘European model’ — the idea that introducing kids to alcohol early at home will teach them about responsible drinking and lessen the ‘taboo’ appeal of alcohol. Our study provides evidence to the contrary.”
For their study, the researchers followed 561 middle school students in Rhode Island for about three years. They found that at the start of sixth grade (about age 11), nearly 30% of the students said they’d had at least one sip of alcohol. Those sips were provided by parents, often at parties or special occasions, in most cases.
By ninth grade, 26% of those who’d had sips of alcohol at a younger age said they’d had at least one full alcoholic drink, compared with less than 6% of those who didn’t get sips of alcohol when younger. The researchers also found that 9% of the sippers had gotten drunk or engaged in binge drinking by ninth grade, compared with just fewer than 2% of the non-sippers.
Even when researchers accounted for other factors related to underage drinking, such as parents’ drinking habits, family history of alcoholism, as well as each child’s impulsiveness and risk-taking behavior, the relationship between that early first sip and risky drinking in high school remained.
“Parents should not be alarmed if they have already let their child have a taste of wine. We are not saying your child is doomed. However, it is important to give kids clear, consistent messages about drinking and making sure they cannot get hold of any alcohol kept in the house,” added Jackson.
The findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.