Parents open door to drinking for many teens

April 17, 2007

The gateway to drinking often swings open at home. Instead of keeping their kids locked out of the liquor cabinet, parents turn out to be the primary suppliers of alcohol to young adolescents, according to a new study from the University of Florida and the University of Minnesota.

Until now, many suspected older friends were the source of the booze the middle-school set imbibes. Although some young teens do discover beer or whiskey with friends or at parties, most kids get their first drink from mom and dad at home, the study states. The findings appear in the current online issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

Researchers surveyed 4,000 12- to 14-year-olds in Chicago between 2002 and 2005. About 17 percent of 12-year-olds said they had consumed a full alcoholic drink within the past year — and 33 percent of them reported their parents gave them their last drink. That didn’t include teens who just had sips of alcohol or the 4 percent of children who took it from home without their parents’ knowledge, said Kelli Komro, a UF associate professor of epidemiology and health policy research and the paper’s senior author.

“This study clearly shows it’s very important to educate parents about the consequences of the early onset of drinking, to try to prevent them from being a source of alcohol for their children,” Komro said. “There’s a whole long list of alcohol-related problems that are related to young people drinking.”

Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States, and drinking at a young age heightens the risk of being involved in car crashes, sexual assault and violence, UF researchers say. According to a 2007 U.S. Surgeon General report, adolescents who drink by the time they are 15 — about half of all teens — are more likely to have trouble in school, suffer from alcohol dependence later in life and smoke cigarettes and use other drugs than those who don’t. Even worse, exposure to alcohol at a young age may damage the developing brain, the report states.

In most states, parents can legally provide alcohol to their children inside the home. Some parents may do this because of cultural or religious events, but Komro said she thinks parents should be cautious about the message this sends to teens.

Although parents are the primary source of alcohol for 12-year-olds, other adults over 21 are more likely to be a 14-year-old’s main supplier. By the time adolescents reach 14, 33 percent reported having a drink within the past year, and the largest percentage of these teens said they got their last drink from another adult over 21.

Although prevention programs have significantly curbed smoking and drug use in adolescents, alcohol use among adolescents has dipped only slightly, Komro said.

“It’s one of the toughest behaviors to change in our culture because it’s so culturally accepted among adults,” Komro said. “For prevention researchers such as myself, it’s one of our challenges to try to get those rates reduced.”

Education programs need to be designed to target both younger children and their parents, said Rhonda Jones-Webb, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota who was not involved with the study.

“The perception has been that kids get alcohol from other kids or older adults,” said Jones-Webb, also co-chairwoman of the health disparities work group at the university. “Perhaps some parents aren’t even aware of the problem.”

Jones-Webb said she thinks the study will help researchers find ways to tackle teen drinking in part because of the children researchers studied. As part of a broader prevention research initiative called Project Northland Chicago, the researchers surveyed children from 63 schools who were from multiple ethnic backgrounds, primarily black and Hispanic, and from mostly low-income households. Other studies have focused mainly on one ethnic group, but for prevention efforts to work they have to be applicable to multiple races, Jones-Webb said.

Although law enforcement officials can target stores and other commercial sources of alcohol to help prevent teens from getting alcohol there, rooting out the social sources of teen drinking is a little trickier, Komro said. Aside from designing educational programs, policy and additional enforcement efforts may help, too, she said.

“For parents, of course, the important message is for them to understand that it’s risky to provide alcohol for their children,” Komro said. “It increases the risk of (teen drinking), which in turn increases a young person’s risk for alcohol-related problems all the way into adulthood.”

Source: University of Florida

Explore further: Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

Related Stories

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Parents initiating teens to drinking a bad idea: study

January 25, 2018
Parents who give their teens alcohol, even to teach them how to drink responsibly, are more likely to do harm than good, according to a six-year study in Australia, published Thursday.

More than one in 10 U.K. 14-year-olds admit to binge drinking

January 25, 2018
Just under half of young people in the UK had tried alcohol by the time they were 14, with more than one in ten confessing to binge drinking, according to UCL research. 

Team leads ACSM paper on safety recommendations for energy drinks

February 9, 2018
Helpful guidance and warnings regarding the potential dangers that energy drinks present to at-risk populations, primarily children, were published in a paper led by a cardiologist at The University of Texas Health Science ...

A parent's guide to why teens make bad decisions

January 22, 2018
From getting beyond drunk at a friend's party, to some seriously questionable outfit choices, teenagers often do things that seem outlandishly stupid. But we now know why: the areas of the brain that control decision-making ...

Must we deprive ourselves of all pleasure to stay healthy?

January 24, 2018
In 2018, I'll quit smoking, really. And I'll stop drinking alcohol, at least for a while…

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.