Will kids who sip alcohol become early drinkers?

September 11, 2014

Previous research has shown that the practice of allowing youngsters to taste or sip alcohol is associated with their parents’ attitudes toward acceptance of drinking and alcohol use. Now a new study examines whether children who sip alcohol at an early age progress to early-onset drinking and other negative behaviors in adolescence and young adulthood.

 

Previous research has shown that the practice of allowing youngsters to taste or sip alcohol is associated with their parents’ attitudes toward acceptance of drinking and alcohol use. Now a new study examines whether children who sip alcohol at an early age progress to early-onset drinking and other negative behaviors in adolescence and young adulthood.

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In this first study of the earliest transition from abstinence to first tasting of alcohol among young children, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh interviewed a sample of 452 8- and 10-year-olds (238 girls, 214 boys) and their families about their initiation of nonreligious sipping or tasting of alcohol. Children’s interviews were conducted at baseline and repeated every 6 months: younger children at average ages 8.5 years through 16 years and older children at average ages 10.5 years through 18 years. Parent interviews were completed annually,

Data showed that parents’ report of their drinking status and attitudes toward their child sipping/tasting alcohol, as well as the family’s alcohol environment, was the strongest predictor of the child’s involvement with alcohol. Children whose parents were current drinkers were 3 times more likely to begin sipping alcohol before the age of 12 years than other children. However, only the child’s personal attitude toward sipping predicted their initiation of actual sipping/tasting.

Other findings showed that children who began sipping alcohol before the age of 12 years displayed no greater prevalence of problem behaviors in adolescence such as alcohol dependence, drug use, marijuana use, criminal behaviors, or risky sexual behaviors than children who did not. In addition, researchers say that although one-third of early sippers do move on to early drinking, the majority of early sippers do not.

The study suggests that children are more likely to accept alcohol use if they do not see their parents as strongly disapproving of the practice of sipping or tasting alcohol among young children. 

More than two-thirds of US adolescents can be classified as drinkers by age 18 years.


 

 

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