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Your Teen

Should Parents Give Their Teen Alcohol?


Some parents might argue that they are being responsible caregivers when they supply their teen alcohol. The thinking is that no matter what roadblocks you present, teens are going to drink - therefore, if parents allow them to drink at home they remove some of the alcohol - related risks.

It’s not as uncommon as you might think. In many countries, parents provide alcohol to their underage kids as a way to introduce them to drinking carefully, and believe it will protect them from the harms of heavy drinking.

A groundbreaking new study from Australia says that’s just not true. Providing alcohol to your teen actually does more harm than good. In fact, young people who got alcohol from their parents were more likely to also get it from elsewhere, researchers found.

"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. He is a professor of drug and alcohol studies at the University of New South Wales.

The study finding "reinforces the fact that alcohol consumption leads to harm, no matter how it is supplied," he added.

Mattick’s team followed more than 1,900 Australian teens, aged 12 to 18 years of age, over a six-year time span.

By the end of the study, 81 percent of teens that got alcohol from both their parents and other people reported binge drinking (defined as having more than four drinks on a single occasion). That compared to 62 percent of teens who got alcohol only from other people, and 25 percent of those who got alcohol only from their parents.

In addition, the researchers found that teens whose parents supplied them with alcohol in one year were twice as likely to also get it elsewhere the next year.

The findings show that parents don't help teens deal with alcohol responsibility by providing it to them, and doing so does not reduce the risk that they will get it elsewhere, the researchers concluded.

Not surprisingly, alcohol is the top risk factor for death and disability among 15- to 24-year-olds worldwide, according to background information in a journal news release. In addition, the teen years are also the time when drinking problems are most likely to develop.

"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 mentioned in the news release.

Another approach might be for parents to talk to their teen about the dangers of alcohol consumption and encourage them to stand up against peer pressure to start drinking.

The report was published in the January issue of The Lancet Public Health.

Story source: Robert Preidt,



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