Taking a Sip May Not Be Good

Letting kids taste alcohol to deter future risky drinking behavior is commonplace

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Nearly half of parents let their elementary age kids try sips of alcohol. Does this encourage healthy drinking behavior in the future? It's hard to say.

A recent study asked 1,050 moms whether they let their young kids taste alcohol and why.

Results found 40 percent of moms hope to demystify alcohol to make it less tempting.

"Talk to your kids about responsible drinking."

Christine Jackson, PhD, social ecologist at RTI International in Durham, North Carolina, led the investigation.

Dr. Jackson said, “The idea that early exposure to alcohol can discourage a child’s interest in drinking has a strong foothold among some parents of elementary school aged children.”

For the study, 1,050 pairs of moms or female guardians and their third-grade children were asked to participate in telephone surveys.

The parents were asked about their beliefs concerning letting children sip alcoholic beverages and practices.

A total of 33 percent of children reported alcohol use to the telephone interviewers, while parental approval for children sipping alcohol was between 15 percent and 40 percent.

Parents that listed their reason for allowing children to sip alcohol as making the child less likely to drink during his or her teen years made up 22 percent.

Parents that listed their reason for allowing sipping was that it would make their child more resistant to peer influence of underage drinking made up 26 percent.

By tasting alcohol, many parents hoped the flavor would discourage the children from experimenting.

But mostly, mothers admitted to fears that forbidding alcohol would only make it that much more tempting to the child according to 40 percent.

Dr. Jackson said, “These findings indicate that many parents mistakenly expect that the way children drink at home, under parental supervision, will be replicated when children are with peers.”

“More research is needed to understand how parents acquire these ideas and to understand the relationship between early sipping and alcohol use in adolescence.”

This study was published in September in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 26, 2012
Last Updated:
October 2, 2012