Many parents wrongly believe that allowing young children to taste alcohol may discourage them from drinking when they're teens, a new study finds.
"The idea that early exposure to alcohol can discourage a child's interest in drinking has a strong foothold among some parents of elementary-school-aged children," lead author Christine Jackson, a social ecologist at RTI International, a non-profit research organization, said in an RTI news release.
Early introduction to alcohol is a major risk factor for problem drinking during the teen years, the researchers warned.
How the study was done
They analysed interviews conducted with 1 050 mothers of third-grade children and found that one-quarter of them said allowing their children to taste alcohol would discourage their curiosity about it because they would not like the flavour and because it would remove the "forbidden fruit" appeal of it.
The researchers also found that 40% of the mothers felt that not allowing their children to taste alcohol would only increase their desire to have it, 22% believed children who taste alcohol at home with their parents would be better able to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol, and 26% thought it would make their children less likely to experiment with risky drinking in middle school.
Nearly 33% of the children in the study said they had tasted beer, wine or other alcoholic drinks. There was a strong association between parents who were in favour of allowing their children to taste alcohol and children's reported alcohol use.
"These findings indicate that many parents mistakenly expect that the way children drink at home, under parental supervision, will be replicated when children are with peers," Jackson said. "More research is needed to understand how parents acquire these ideas and to understand the relationship between early sipping and alcohol use in adolescence."
(HealthDay News, September 2012)
How alcohol can kill children
Brain activity may predict teens' heavy drinking