Children allowed alcohol by their parents are more likely to binge

Children allowed alcohol by their parents are more likely to binge

June 12, 2019 By mediabest

Children allowed to drink alcohol by their parents are more likely to become binge drinkers in adulthood, new study shows

  • University of Cambridge research found relaxed parents ‘encourage drinking’
  • Children of permissive parents are more likely to binge-drink more frequently 
  • Review of 16,500 children found those with lenient parents more likely to get drunk

Many modern parents pride themselves on being relaxed about letting their children have a drink.

But that first sip of beer during a family barbecue, or thimbleful of champagne on New Year’s Eve may not be as harmless as it seems.

A scientific review has found parents happy for their children to try alcohol are more likely to see them become drinkers.

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge say many parents believe it is the ‘social norm’ to allow even young children to try alcohol, in a bid to give them independence. Stock picture

The children of permissive parents are more likely to binge-drink and to consume alcohol frequently, based on 29 studies in children aged seven to 18.

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge say many parents believe it is the ‘social norm’ to allow even young children to try alcohol, in a bid to give them independence. 

But in giving in, often to avoid conflict, they may inadvertently be encouraging drinking.

The review of almost 16,500 children and more than 15,000 parents looked at parents’ attitudes on their children ‘sipping’ alcohol, and whether they approved of children drinking or found it acceptable.

The children of the most lenient parents were 58 per cent more likely to report having got drunk, and 52 per cent more likely to drink frequently.

Mariliis Tael-Oeren, who led the research, said: ‘There are many myths related to children’s alcohol use, such as the old “forbidden fruit” idea that if alcohol is forbidden by parents it becomes much more appealing.

The review of almost 16,500 children and more than 15,000 parents looked at parents’ attitudes on their children ‘sipping’ alcohol, and whether they approved of children drinking or found it acceptable. Pictured is Cambridge University

‘Because of this, parents might allow children alcohol at a dinner party, at New Year’s Eve or their own birthday party if they turn 13 or 14.

‘It is easy to see why parents think their children are not that far from adulthood, or that it is fine to give them a bit because everybody else is doing it.

‘But one of the reasons why this might lead to greater alcohol use in children is that it sends mixed messages – without them alcohol is not allowed, but with them it is fine. It is much better to have a clear message for children.’ 

Among the research looked at for the review was a US study of more than 400 children which asked mothers how they felt about their child tasting or sipping alcohol.

The study, by the University of Pittsburgh, found 10-year-olds were 18 per cent more likely to drink alcohol if their mother had lenient views about it.

Parents who believed drinking was acceptable early in childhood had children 54 per cent more likely to drink as teenagers, according to another study of more than 1,200 12-year-olds from the University at Buffalo last year.

Taking all the studies together, the children of parents who were less worried about alcohol were 45 per cent more likely to try alcohol, according to the review co-authored with the University of East Anglia and published in the journal Addiction.

When figures were last available, in 2016, one in 10 English pupils aged 11 to 15 had drunk alcohol in the last week, consuming six units on average, which is the equivalent of two-and-a-half pints of low-strength beer.

Research suggests children aged four start to understand that alcohol is drunk in specific contexts and is usually just for adults.

Mrs Tael-Oeren, from the Behavioural Science Group at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Ideally alcohol use should be initiated when the brain is fully developed, i.e. around the age of 25. 

And although it might sound a bit unrealistic, especially when taking into account alcohol use rates, it is something to think about.

‘Alcohol use can be problematic, particularly among young people. It’s important that parents and children understand the short and long-term consequences of drinking.

‘If parents don’t want their children to drink, then our study suggests they need to be clear about the message they give out.’ 

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