Parents Sharing Booze With Kids May Backfire

Some parents, like Erica Zidel, think that sharing alcohol with their children will cause them to be more responsible as they get older. The rationalization is, that if kids are familiar with alcohol at home, if they’ve tasted it from their parents glass, they will learn to treat it responsibly. Zidel tells Today, “I feel it’s very important to set an example of responsible drinking for him — that alcohol is something to be enjoyed in moderation. We explain to him that it’s a drink for grownups and, as he gets older, he can have a very small amount on special occasions.” Makes sense. After all, don’t kids drink alcohol just because they know they’re not supposed to? Take away the mystery, and you take away the temptation.

Not so, according to Christine Jackson of RTI International in North Carolina. Jackson states that “it is possible that an early introduction to alcohol, even when it is limited to sips and even when it is meant to discourage child interest in alcohol, could backfire and lead to more drinking later on.” Jackson worked with others from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Six percent of American children 12-14 years old have had alcohol; 30% of those received the alcohol from their parents or other adult relatives, cites Time. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, directed by Pamela Hyde, told Time:

“People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems. Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction.”

Thousands of parents stand by Zidel’s theory: exposing children to alcohol in the safety of a home environment makes them more responsible consumers in the future. And while reports show that this plan may backfire with some children, other research “suggests that teens whose parents drink with them actually have fewer alcohol problems than other kids,” reports Time. This exposure, however, excludes providing alcohol for teen parties – such environments often encourage peer-driven binge drinking. But, according to research, kids whose “parents [who] actually drink with their teens at dinner … [are] associated with lower levels of alcohol problems.”

What do you think? To drink or not to drink with kids at the table?