According to a study published Thursday in The Lancet Public Health journal, the idea of exposing youths to alcohol early in life to prevent abuse is completely misguided. In fact, researchers determined that early exposure actually increases the chances of teens dealing with alcohol-related problems.
"This practice by parents is intended to protect teenagers from the harms of heavy drinking by introducing them to alcohol carefully, however the evidence behind this has been limited," Richard Mattick, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We advise that parents should avoid supplying alcohol to their teenagers if they wish to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harms."
Speaking to The Guardian, Mattick indicated that while the notion is "well-intentioned," what parents are really only doing "is giving [their] permission to kids to drink."
Mattick and his colleagues came to their conclusions after recruiting 1,927 Australian teens between the ages of 12 and 18 and had them and their parents complete questionnaires every year from 2010 and 2016. The survey asked both groups of participants how teens in the home managed to get their hands on alcohol, about binge drinking levels, experience with drink related harms and if they'd undergone any alcohol abuse symptoms, according to Science Daily.
In the last two years of the study, teens were also asked about what symptoms of alcohol use and dependence officials should keep in mind when identifying its abuse in the future.
Teens who had been given alcohol by their parents had 2.58 times more of a chance of reporting binge drinking than others who were not given alcohol by their parents.
After analyzing their findings, researchers noted that 81 percent of participants who were given alcohol by their parents and by others reported binge drinking (defined as drinking more than four drinks on one occasion), compared to 62 percent of teens who got alcohol from only other people, while only 25 percent who were handed a drink solely from parental figures reported abusing the substance.
"While governments focus on prevention through school-based education and enforcement of legislation on legal age for buying and drinking alcohol, parents go largely unnoticed," Mattick later added in a statement. "Parents, policy makers and clinicians need to be made aware that parental provision of alcohol is associated with risk [and] not with protection."
Though researchers stressed the importance of not giving adolescents alcoholic drinks early on, they did admit that the study had some limitations, including that it relied on self-reporting and that it had mostly involved teens from higher-income households.