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Alcohol Harm Reduction

Let Your Teen Have A Glass of Wine at Home? Research Says You’re Increasing the Odds of Alcohol Problems

posted 07:51 AM EST, Thu April 28, 2011
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Although a lot of parents think that by introducing alcohol to young teens in the home adolescents can learn responsible drinking habits, a large harm reduction study out of Australia and America suggests that these well meaning parents may be doing a lot more harm than good.

Although moms and dads who let 12 and 13 year old kids have a glass of wine at special occasional dinners probably don’t think they’re promoting binge drinking outside of the home, according to researchers in Victoria, Australia and Washington State USA – they probably are.

The Study

The researchers evaluated 1900 7th grade students in Victoria Australia and Seattle Washington to determine how many of these kids were occasionally allowed to drink alcohol in the home, under adult supervision. These students were then followed for a three year period and during that time the researchers administered periodic surveys designed to identify any problems related to alcohol use.

The Results

  • The research team found that by grade 8, 67% of Australian kids had consumed alcohol under an adult’s supervision, compared to only 35% of the American students.
  • By grade 9, 36% of the Australian students had experienced problems from their drinking, such as having alcohol blackouts, getting into fights after getting drunk, having trouble stopping drinking etc. By contrast, only 21% of the American grade 9 students were having similar problems.
  • Students from both countries that had been allowed to drink at home were more likely to report having alcohol problems by grade 8


Lead researcher Dr. Barbara J. McMorris of the University of Minnesota commented on the results and the misguided good intentions of many parents, saying, "I think what the study did give was evidence that a very specific aspect of alcohol harm minimization wasn't working as they thought, which was this idea that adults should supervise kids drinking…Kids need parents to be parents and not drinking buddies. Adults need to be clear about what messages they are sending. Kids need black and white messages early on.

 The full research results can be read in the May edition of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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Story Highlights
  • Wine at Dinner: Letting underage kids drink a small amount of alcohol under parental supervision promotes drinking problems.
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