A new study has found that parents who introduce their children to alcohol before they turn 18 could be putting their kids at risk of developing alcoholism in later life.
Many adults believe following the Continental habit of allowing their children to have a tipple at home under their supervision is a good way to introduce them to alcohol and promote responsible drinking.
However, this study from Yale University has found the younger people are when they have their first drink, the more likely they are to drink heavily as adults. This puts them at the risk of many negative health consequences.
The author, Meghan Morean, and her team examined 1,160 students who moved from high school to university over a four-year period. The participants filled in questionnaires about when they first started drinking, how frequently they drank heavily and any alcohol-related problems they had.
The researchers, published in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that the earlier a teenager tried alcohol, the more likely they would be struggling to control how much they drank at university.
Morean said; “As expected, beginning to use alcohol at an earlier age was associated with heavier drinking and the experience of more negative consequences during senior year of college.
“Quickly progressing from first alcohol use to drinking to intoxication was also an important predictor of heavy drinking and the experience of alcohol-related problems during senior year of college.
“For example, an adolescent who consumed his first drink at the age of 15 and also drank to intoxication at age 15 was at greater risk for heavy drinking and problems than adolescent who took his first drink at 15 and did not drink to the point of intoxication until he was 17.”
But is it the parents who allow their children to drink to intoxication at this age?
Morean said previous studies had found the same link between an early age of first drink and negative alcohol-related outcomes including compromised brain development, drug abuse and risky sexual behaviours.
However, she said that while there is a clear association, more research is needed to see if drinking early directly causes the negative outcomes.
Either way, the researchers recommend teenagers to delay early drinking.
Morean added; “It is important to speak to children and adolescents openly about the dangers of heavy drinking and provide them with correct information. It is also extremely important to remember that heavy drinking during adolescence and early adulthood is not confined to college campuses.”