Some parents in the U.S. have taken the European approach of exposing children to alcohol at a young age in hopes that this will protect kids against subsequent drinking because it makes drinking seem less forbidden. Although there has been a blasé belief that sipping alcohol at a young age is harmless, new research shows that behavior to be untrue.
A recent study by the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown indicates that such sipping is associated with an increased risk of drinking, as well as using other substances by the time kids enter high school. These studies show that the earlier children taste alcohol, the more likely they will be to start drinking in high school.
Kids who try a sip of alcohol before sixth grade may be more likely to start drinking by the time they enter high school. Researchers have found that kids who had tastes of an alcoholic beverage before they started middle school were five times more likely to have a full drink by ninth grade, compared with their classmates who had not tasted alcohol.
These findings point to the importance of parents providing a clear and consistent message to youth about the dangers and unacceptability of alcohol consumption. If a parent provides a child a sip of wine or beer at age 6 or 7, the child gets the message that it’s ok. Setting that precedent makes it harder for the child to accept parental limits just a few years later. Consistent messaging from an early age is one of the best prevention steps you can take.
If you are concerned about a family member or loved one, now is the time to get help. Call (813) 489-4500. Intake counselors are available to assist right now.