While some parents believe that giving their teens alcohol helps them to drink responsibly, a large groundbreaking study says otherwise.
With prom and graduation season just around the corner, parents everywhere are considering which parties to allow their teens to attend. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among underage drinkers, 86% had consumed alcohol in their house or in someone else’s home.
Some parents support the notion of teens drinking in the home, claiming that they can monitor the amount of alcohol consumed. These parents argue that adolescents are going to drink regardless, so they would rather have them drinking at home where they are safe. For other parents, it’s a matter of teaching their children to drink responsibly before they head off, unmonitored, to college.
Other parents point to Europe, where the drinking age is lower and teens are rumored to be more responsible around alcohol. However, experts say that there is heavier drinking in Europe, so that argument does not hold up.
While parents may feel supportive of teen drinking, many state laws disagree. The majority of states have enacted social host liabilities, holding adults responsible for any injuries that occur when alcohol is consumed on their property.
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In a new groundbreaking six-year study out of Australia, researchers have found that parents who give their teens alcohol may be doing more harm than good.
“Our study is the first to analyze parental supply of alcohol and its effects in detail in the long term, and finds that it is, in fact, associated with risks when compared to teenagers not given alcohol,” said lead author Richard Mattick. “This reinforces the fact that alcohol consumption leads to harm, no matter how it is supplied. We advise that parents should avoid supplying alcohol to their teenagers if they wish to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harms.”
The study followed approximately 1,900 parents and teens ages 12-18 years old in three major Australian cities. Roughly 15 percent of parents provided alcohol to the younger teens. By the time the teens were 18, nearly 60 percent of parents were giving alcohol to their children.
While accounting for factors such as gender, age, and household income, the study found that children who were provided alcohol by their parents had 2.58 times the odds of binge-drinking the following year, compared to their peers who were not supplied alcohol.
Related: Report Reveals American Teens are Safer Than in Recent Decades
Further, for the teens who were provided alcohol by their parents as well as by other sources, 81 percent reported binge drinking, defined as consuming more than four drinks at a time. Comparatively, 62 percent of teens who received alcohol from sources other than their parents reported binge drinking.
The study also found that teens who were supplied alcohol by their parents one year were twice as likely to get it elsewhere the following year.
“Parents, policy makers, and clinicians need to be made aware that parental provision of alcohol is associated with risk, not with protection, to reduce the extent of parental supply in high-income countries, and in low-middle-income countries that are increasingly embracing the consumption of alcohol,” Mattick said in the news release.