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Letting Your Kids Sip Booze May Backfire


In dining rooms across the country--and especially throughout wine-loving Europe--oenophiles are quick to pour their kids a splash of vino with dinner. The thinking for years has been fairly straightforward: if you demystify alcohol for your kids at a young age, they are less likely to binge drink as a teen. 

The logic seems sound, but recent studies have debunked that myth. Letting kids take a tipple now and then has no effect on whether they may binge-drink as adolescents and young adults. Worse: the earlier they are exposed to drinking, the earlier they could develop a dependency on alcohol. 

The problem? Not everyone is getting the message.

A recent survey of 1,000 mothers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee found that 40 percent believed forbidding alcohol would only spike their kids' curiosity and desire. The study, which was led by Christine Jackson of RTI International at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, called for education campaigns to let more parents know that responsible drinking at home doesn't necessarily curtail risky drinking when young people are out with their friends.

At least one in five of the parents of third-graders said they believed that children who sip alcohol will be better at resisting peer pressure to drink, and less likely to try risky drinking, the study's authors wrote in Monday's issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine."This finding indicates that many parents mistakenly expect that the way children drink at home, under parental supervision, will be replicated when children are with peers," they wrote.

"This expectation is refuted by recent studies that link adolescent brain development with adolescents' propensity to disregard home drinking norms when they are with peers."

Previous studies suggested that fifth graders whose parents allowed them to drink alcohol were twice as likely to report drinking in seventh grade, the researchers said.

Plus: The Latest Thinking on Drinking While Pregnant

A minority of the mothers in the study, between 15 per cent and nearly 40 per cent, strongly or somewhat agreed that early sipping can be beneficial. But, as the study's authors note, historically countries like France and Italy have had high rates of death from alcohol.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America recommends that parents start a conversation with their children about alcohol early on by showing them open-mindedness. Ask if any of their friends drink and how that makes them feel. Be clear with kids that you don’t want them drinking by setting limits, and making rules and consequences clear. It's also important to be honest about your own drinking history.

What do you think about letting your kids drink? Do you let your little ones take baby sips? Or is alcohol banned from their lips? Let us know