Should Children Be Allowed to Sip Mommy’s Drink?

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Will allowing your child a sip of wine at an early age prevent him from engaging in dangerous drinking later? Probably not, but plenty of parents think so, finds a recent study.

A survey published this week in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine interviewed 1,050 mothers and their third-graders, and found that a substantial proportion of parents — anywhere from 15% to 40% — believe that letting their kids taste alcohol at home will protect them from engaging in risky drinking behaviors with their peers later on. As expected, the children of moms who held such beliefs were more likely to have tried alcohol by about age 9.

For the study, researchers interviewed mothers and their kids for 25 minutes each. Mothers were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements like “If parents don’t let children try alcohol at least once, children will be more tempted by alcohol as a ‘forbidden fruit,'” “Letting children younger than 12 years have sips or tastes of alcohol is a safe way to introduce them to alcohol” and “Children who sip small amounts of alcohol at home with parents will be less likely to experiment with risky drinking in middle school.”

(MORE: Two Questions Can Help Doctors Spot Teen Alcohol Problems)

The third-graders were asked whether they had ever tasted a sip of beer, wine or any other alcohol, and whether an adult in their home had ever allowed them to do so. Approximately a third of the child participants reported sipping alcohol.

Moms were most likely to believe the forbidden-fruit argument — 1 in 3 mothers agreed that keeping alcohol from their kids would only make them want it more and that it would increase its “forbidden fruit” appeal. About 22% of moms thought that children who learn to sip alcohol at home would be better at resisting peer pressure to drink outside the home, and 26% believed that kids who try drinking with their parents will be less likely to experiment with alcohol in middle school. The researchers note, however, that it’s a mistake to think that kids’ drinking behaviors at home, under parental supervision, have any bearing on the way they drink with their friends — recent studies refute that notion.

In fact, there’s little evidence to suggest that early exposure to alcohol curbs drinking in adolescence. Rather, the opposite may be true. The authors cite previous research showing that, for example, fifth-grade children whose parents allowed them to have alcohol were twice as likely to report recent alcohol use in seventh grade. Another study found that sipping or tasting alcohol at age 10 predicted drinking by age 14, even after controlling for other psychological or social factors that could increase the risk of problem drinking.

(MORE: Status: Drunk. Can Facebook Help ID Problem Drinkers?)

Belief in the protective effect of early alcohol sipping was most common in white, college-educated, employed women. The researchers speculate that this could be because drinking is more socially acceptable among this group, so parents are more tolerant of underage drinking. It could also be that women in this group are more concerned than other moms about preventing underage drinking, and thus more likely to try to curb the behavior by introducing alcohol to their kids early.

Lead study author Christine Jackson, a public health analyst at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, notes that parents who hold such pro-sipping beliefs are not only more tolerant of their children tasting alcohol, but they’re also more likely to involve their kids in adult alcohol-related activities, like letting them fetch or pour drinks for adults — all of which could have unintended effects.

“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…leading to more drinking later on,” says Jackson. The authors call for further examination into the effects of parents’ pro-sipping beliefs on children’s alcohol use as they grow older.

“Public health education programs are needed so that more parents know that home drinking norms do not curtail risky drinking in peer contexts,” the authors conclude.

MORE: Alcohol in Pregnancy: It’s Never Safe, Especially Not in the First Trimester

28 comments
crazy4creatine
crazy4creatine

thank you for the amazing thought they r so good thanks for posting and sharing ,teenage drinking causes all kinds of destructive behavior.  But in the long term, continuous excessive or binge drinking, which all begins with that first drink i do agree with it so much .

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noob1234
noob1234

well it isnt me or any1 i know...

noob1234
noob1234

omg why do  have an avatar

noob1234
noob1234

mothers... do what you want but dont let then have ALOT just a sip and when i was... 5? i asked my dad what he was drinking and he said wobbly pop... well it was in a can so i thought it was pop so i had a sip and hated it but now im 10 and he bought a beer to try and he didnt like it he said it tasted like beer + vinnila and he asked me if i wanted to see well i didnt try but i could smell the vinilla

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Leave mothers alone.

All we do is tell them what they are doing wrong and what they are doing wrong changes by the week.

Trust your own instincts, moms.

Jennifer Herrald
Jennifer Herrald

 Many cultures teach their young to drink moderately and responsibly.

 How Italian youth, as distinct from American youth, are taught to drink:

"Italians, like Jews, are a group whose members tend to drink and to

have low rates of alcohol problems. The attitudes and behaviors of

Italians in the United States are a reflection of those in Italy, where

children are introduced to alcohol as part of their regular family life

and learn to drink moderate amounts while still young. In both

countries, alcohol is commonly drunk with meals and is considered a

natural and normal food. Most people agree that alcohol in moderation,

for those who choose to drink, is necessary, and that abuse is

unacceptable and results in immediate sanctions. People are not

pressured to drink, and abstention does not offend others; drinking

reflects sociability and social cohesion rather than a means to achieve

them. Very few people drink for the physiological effect, and most

people take alcohol for granted, with no mixed feelings or uncertainty

about it." Hanson, D.J., "The United States of America," pp. 300-315 in

Heath, D.B., ed., International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1995, p. 309.

To view research on "How Culture Influences the Way People Drink" see:

http://peele.net/lib/sociocul....

Sam Frances
Sam Frances

I don't think it makes any difference when a child first tastes alcohol or with whom.  Addiction is the problem.  Addiction is genetic.  If you have a genetic predisposition and NEVER take a drink, you will not become an addict.  Addiction is the important issue, not casual teenage drinking.   I know, I know, teenage drinking causes all kinds of destructive behavior.  But in the long term, continuous excessive or binge drinking, which all begins with that first drink, will destroy any prospect of a productive and satisfying life and degrade self-respect.  So never mind when or how your child is first introduced to alcohol, just make sure they are fully aware of the consequences - and keep reminding them.  There are all kinds of examples to emphasize the point.  Yes, I have personal experience of these dangers and have seen them in 4 generations, including my  own. 

Dave Waddell
Dave Waddell

I'm 27 now and have a very clear memory of my dad letting me take a sip of his (very strong) screwdriver when I was a child. I hung my head over the toilet for at least 15 minutes trying to get that taste out of my mouth...needless to say I still hate vodka.

Talendria
Talendria

I doubt this practice has anything to do with diminishing the allure of alcohol.  It's more likely a subconscious attempt to make the child turn out just like his parents.

aaantman
aaantman

What if you introduce them to say, harsh tequila and no chaser? I tried my uncle's cigar at 10 years old, almost died coughing and have been averse to smoking ever since haha

MariePin001
MariePin001

I adopted a boy of five who grew up to be an alcoholic. I'm sure he had a few sips as a child since we finally discovered his mother amp; grandmother were alcoholics as were other members of the family. Is the gamble worth it? I definitely say NO.

Yoshi_1
Yoshi_1

Oh goody! Are we going to get some federal laws on this, too? I can't wait!

MariePin001
MariePin001

Dave, this apparently worked in your case, but what if you had LIKED the taste?

yourstrulysieweMD
yourstrulysieweMD

Are you talking about your son?. I know we should not judge others, particularly on such issues but your narration lacks warmth and that parental something! .....

noob1234
noob1234

i know right obama is a damn shit nugget

Endicott Peabody
Endicott Peabody

State laws already control the drinking age.

While I agree with the idea that letting kids try alcohol is definitely not insurance against abuse later, the article is very weak on support: "It is POSSIBLE...COULD backfire."

claytonemoore
claytonemoore

She's just stating the facts.  Warm fuzzies are not necessary when reporting something that is true.  

MariePin001
MariePin001

No, we certainly shouldn't judge others. Lacks warmth? My heart aches for my son. No child should be exposed to things that may hurt him/her later. The child is not an "experiment". Giving a young child alcohol or other substance is called child abuse,  if I'm not mistaken. Read my memoir if you think I lack warmth in this matter.

yourstrulysieweMD
yourstrulysieweMD

I am referring to your addressing him!. Without you mentioning adoption it would not even occur to me you had any relationship to the lad.