Should Parents Let Their Kids Drink at Home?

By McCarton Ackerman 08/16/12

Letting kids drink earlier may actually increase their risk of abusing alcohol later on, says a study.

Paving the way for a problem later on?
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Parents who allow their underage kids to have booze in order to "teach" safe drinking may actually pave the way for unsafe drinking habits later on, according to a new study from Yale University. Researchers studied 1,160 first year college students who had data compiled about their drinking habits from the previous four years and found that teens who had started getting drunk at 15 were far more likely to develop problems than those who waited until they were 17. Although the findings don't necessarily indicate that drinking at a young age is the cause of heavy drinking later in life, they do show that "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," according to corresponding author Meghan Morean, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Morean says there's also evidence that drinking at an early age can lead to more immediate problems such as compromised brain damage during adolescence, poor performance in school and the use of other substances, such as marijuana and cocaine. Despite this, some feel that the decision to introduce kids to alcohol needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. "Ultimately parents know their children and will need to make a judgement call about when and if to introduce their child to alcohol," says Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of the charity Family Lives. "Equipping parents with the tools to ensure they can talk effectively with their children is the best way of preventing children excessively experimenting and can prevent later problems in teenage and adult life."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.